The Turkish president wants to bring relations to a “better point”, but says that Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians is “unacceptable”.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would like to have better relations with Israel and that intelligence talks continue between the two sides, but also criticized Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians as “unacceptable”.
Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey had problems with “the people at the highest level” in Israel and relations could have been “very different” without these problems.
“Palestinian politics is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept the Palestinian policy of Israel. Their ruthless actions there are unacceptable, ”Erdogan said.
“If there hadn’t been problems at the highest level, our ties could have been very different,” he added. “We would like to improve our ties.”
Turkey was the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel in 1949. They maintained warm relations and strong trade ties until Erdogan came to power.
In recent years, Ankara has repeatedly condemned the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.
Turkey severed diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time in 2010 after 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos who boarded a Turkish-owned flotilla trying to provide aid and to break the maritime blockade of Gaza, which lasted several years.
The Israeli blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed a hermetic blockade by land, sea and air over the region.
They re-established ties in 2016, but relations deteriorated again in 2018.
In May of the same year, Ankara withdrew its envoy for deadly attacks on Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip that protested US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have often exchanged angry comments, but the two countries continue to trade with each other.
In August this year, Israel accused Turkey of giving passports to a dozen Hamas operatives in Istanbul, describing the move as “a very hostile measure” that its government would raise with Turkish officials.
Hamas seized the besieged Gaza Strip from forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. Since then, Israel has severely stepped up its siege and launched three protracted military attacks on Gaza.
Turkey claims that Hamas is a legitimate political movement that has been democratically elected.
Despite Erdogan’s stance on Israel’s policy in Palestine, it has been reported that Ankara has appointed a new ambassador to Israel after a two-year absence.
Earlier this month, an Al-Monitor report said the decision to appoint Ufuk Ulutas, 40, as Turkey’s new ambassador was part of an attempt to improve ties with the administration of newly elected President Joe Biden of the United States.
His appointment comes as a number of Arab countries – Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates – have agreed to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel under agreements negotiated by Trump.