As the Turkey-Israel ties seem to be thawing after years of tensions, Israeli President Isaac Herzog confirmed Wednesday that he will visit Turkey, calling the trip part of an attempt to create a regional alliance on climate change.
Though his role is largely ceremonial, Herzog has been reinforcing Israeli diplomacy aimed at improving ties with Ankara.
"In the coming month, I am due to visit our Mediterranean coast neighbors Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, and meet their leaders," Herzog told a climate conference.
He said he wants to forge "a regional partnership for addressing the climate crisis" with the three countries – Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – as well as the Palestinians.
Turkish media has revealed March 9-10 as the dates for Herzog's visit. President Tayyip Erdoğan has said energy cooperation will be discussed.
Erdoğan said last month that Herzog’s visit could open a new chapter in relations between Turkey and Israel and that he was “ready to take steps in Israel’s direction in all areas, including natural gas.”
Relations between Turkey and Israel hit a low in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, en route to deliver humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The raid killed 10 activists.
The event caused an unprecedented crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations that had been peaceful for decades. Both countries even recalled their diplomatic envoys following the incident.
In 2013, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey and payment of $20 million ( around TL 38 million at the time) in compensation to the Mavi Marmara victims, Turkish-Israeli relations entered a period of normalization.
In December 2016, both countries reappointed ambassadors as part of the reconciliation deal and reiterated several times the necessity to further improve bilateral relations.
However, the two countries again expelled each other's ambassadors in 2018 after another bitter falling out, and relations have since remained tense. In recent months, Anakara and Tel Aviv have been working on a rapprochement with Erdoğan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, holding telephone talks with his Israeli counterpart and other Israeli leaders.
Despite the recent rapprochement, Turkish officials continue to criticize Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, including the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Turkish citizens have also been complaining about Israel’s arbitrary restrictions on visits. However, Israel's informal policy of deportation, visa rejection, arbitrary detention and the delay of Turkish nationals for no reason at airports have failed to discourage hundreds of visitors each year.
Known for its unbreakable solidarity with the Palestinians, Turkey has been voicing support for the Palestinian cause in the international realm for decades. Turkish authorities emphasize that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East is through a fair and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue within the framework of international law and United Nations resolutions.