Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was removed from his party’s election slate to pave the way for Israel to renormalize ties with Turkey, a Russian news outlet reported on Monday.
Ayalon, from the hard-line Yisrael Beytenu party, was recently booted from the party’s list by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who heads the Knesset faction, though no explanation was given.
The deputy foreign minister was seen as having played a substantive role in Jerusalem’s deteriorating ties with Ankara, after he attempted to publicly shame Turkey’s ambassador to Israel by making him sit on a low chair, without displaying a Turkish flag in the room, during a meeting in which he rebuked the ambassador for an anti-Israel television series screened in Turkey.
Reports emerged last month following Israel’s eight-day mini war with Gaza terror factions that Israel and Turkey had examined the issue of reestablishing ties on the sidelines of ceasefire talks in Egypt, which Turkey helped mediate.
According to the report in the Russian news outlet Vestnik Kavkaza, which cited an unnamed senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, Liberman is looking for a way to normalize ties, and Ayalon’s sacking is seen as a message to Ankara that Israel is serious about taking steps to that end.
Israel’s steadily deteriorating ties with Turkey, amid a series of disagreements between Jerusalem and the Islamist government in Ankara, were brought to a nadir with the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010. Nine Turks were killed when Israeli commandos boarded a ship trying to break the Gaza blockade and a melee broke out. Several Israeli soldiers were also injured.
Turkey, once among Israel’s top regional allies, froze ties with Jerusalem after the incident, and has said it will not normalize relations until Israel apologizes and pays compensation to the victims’ families.