Netanyahu said trying to arrange meeting with Turkey’s Erdogan

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to arrange a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid warming relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, according to reports Thursday.

The Prime Minister’s Office is going to great efforts to organize such a meeting, and talks are advancing, a senior Israeli official confirmed to Channel 12 news.

However, other diplomatic sources said the process has encountered some difficulties, namely, that Erdogan will only meet Netanyahu if he delivers news on gas cooperation between the countries.

Turkey has been eager to build a pipeline to deliver gas from Israel to Europe, but according to some experts, there is little Israeli interest in energy cooperation with Ankara.

Thursday’s reports did not say where the potential meeting would take place.

Channel 12 said efforts toward a meeting came with Netanyahu being denied a White House invitation from US President Joe Biden over the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul plans. A long-hoped invitation to the UAE has also failed to emerge.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, February 14, 2023 (Presidency of the Republic of Turkiye)

The premier was said to be seeking an image of diplomatic success, which may be claimed by a photo op with Erdogan.

The news of a possible meeting comes amid a warming of ties between Israel and Turkey but after years of animosity between the two leaders. President Isaac Herzog met Erdogan last year in Ankara — the first high-level visit since 2008. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met Erdogan in February.

Both Netanyahu and Herzog called Erdogan in May to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential elections and urged a continued improvement in ties between the two regional powers.

Despite recent progress, ties between Netanyahu and Erdogan have long been tense.

Israel was a long-time regional ally of Turkey before Erdogan came to power but deteriorating ties imploded after a 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla, that left dead 10 Turkish activists who attacked IDF soldiers aboard the ship.

Despite an official apology by Netanyahu, Erdogan went on to accuse the Jewish state of “keeping Hitler’s spirit alive” during Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza in July 2014.

Ties later saw a moderate improvement, but both countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2018 after Erdogan leveled charges of “state terrorism” and “genocide” at Israel when dozens of Palestinians were killed in Gaza rioting on May 14 of that year, the day then-US president Donald Trump controversially moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Facing hardening diplomatic isolation and economic woes, Erdogan began to publicly display an openness to rapprochement in December 2020. In August of last year, Israel and Turkey announced a full renewal of diplomatic ties.

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