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In first phone call since 2013, Netanyahu, Erdogan pledge to build ‘new era’ in ties

Leaders offer each other condolences over recent terror attacks; Israel’s presumptive incoming PM lauds Ankara’s mediation efforts between Moscow and Kyiv

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Likud leader speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 17, 2022 (Likud)
Likud leader speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 17, 2022 (Likud)

Presumptive incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone on Thursday, agreeing to work together to bring about “a new era” in Ankara-Jerusalem ties, which have been warming steadily over the past year.

“President Erdogan said that it was in the shared interest of Turkiye and Israel to maintain the relations by respecting sensitivities on the basis of mutual interests, and to strengthen them on a sustainable basis,” according to a Turkish readout of the call.

Erdogan’s office added that Netanyahu remarked that Turkey’s mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia “were important to the world.”

Netanyahu expressed his condolences for the bombing on a popular Istanbul pedestrian street that left six dead and dozens wounded. He also offered Israel’s help in the fight against terror.

Erdogan thanked Netanyahu, and offered his own condolences over Tuesday’s deadly terror attack in Ariel.

The 12-minute conversation comes a week after Turkey’s leader sent Netanyahu a congratulatory letter for his election win, saying he believed cooperation between the eastern Mediterranean powers would continue “in a way that will bring peace and stability to our region.”

Representatives of the Turkish communities put flowers over a memorial placed on the spot of Sunday’s explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2022.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

In August, the two countries announced they would be restoring full diplomatic relations after they were suspended in 2018. Ankara withdrew its ambassador then and threw out the Israeli envoy after deadly clashes along Israel’s frontier with Gaza Strip. Jerusalem responded in kind.

Relations between the two leaders themselves were also notoriously acrimonious over the last decade.

They last spoke by phone in 2013, when then-US president Barack Obama arranged a conversation in which Netanyahu apologized for the death of Turkish nationals in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

That call was itself the first time they had spoken in four years.

Renewed coordination between Israel and Turkey was also on display after security forces from both countries worked together to prevent an Iranian assassination plot on Turkish soil in July.

An image taken from security camera footage at an airport believed to show and Iranian agent (C) monitoring Israeli tourists in turkey in July 2022 (Screen capture/Channel 12)

On Saturday, Turkey appointed an ambassador to Israel after a gap of four years. Israel appointed its new envoy in September.

Ties between the two soured after Erdogan’s criticism of Israeli policy toward Palestinians under previous Netanyahu governments. Israel also expressed anger over Ankara’s support for Palestinian terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Netanyahu and Erdogan also sparred vociferously on several occasions, with the two often leveling angry public attacks at each other, including accusing each other of genocide.

Ties between Israel and Turkey began to slowly improve last year, with Erdogan and President Isaac Herzog exchanging personal messages, followed by a series of escalating diplomatic contacts over a variety of issues with a government made up of Netanyahu’s rivals, now set to step down from power.

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Herzog visited Ankara in March, an important step toward rekindling the two countries’ relationship.

Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a meeting with Erdogan at the presidential residence in Ankara, the first official trip to Turkey by an Israeli defense chief in over a decade.

In September, Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level meeting. It was the first such meeting between an Israeli premier and the Turkish leader since Ehud Olmert met Erdogan in Turkey in 2008.

AP and AFP contributed to this report. 

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