Israeli tourists flock to Turkey amid rapprochement
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Israeli tourists flock to Turkey amid rapprochement

Surge of some 80% in three years, according to Turkish media, attributed to improved ties since Netanyahu’s apology over deadly 2010 flotilla raid

Israelis get off the plane at the airport in Bodrum, Turkey, April 28, 2008. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Israelis get off the plane at the airport in Bodrum, Turkey, April 28, 2008. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli tourism to Turkey increased by almost 80 percent over the past three years, rising from 164,917 visitors in 2013 to 293,988 visitors in 2016, according to a new report in the Turkish press.

The surge was largely prompted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much-publicized apology in 2013 to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the deadly May 2010 raid by Israeli forces on a Gaza blockade-busting ship, the Mavi Marmara, according to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, which documented the tourism jump.

The incident, in which 10 Turks were killed in the melee after they attacked IDF troops, greatly exacerbated already high tensions between Israel and Turkey, dealing a massive blow to tourism between the two countries. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, visits from Israel to Turkey plummeted in the wake of the incident, dropping from nearly 500,000 visitors in 2008 to a mere 79,140 in 2011.

Israel and Turkey had previously been close economic and defense allies and Israeli tourists considered the country a top vacation destination, especially in the summer months.

Amid a rapprochement deal signed last summer, diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey have improved and last month, the respective ambassadors to both countries presented their credentials to presidents Reuven Rivlin and Erdogan, marking a fresh start to relations between the two states.

On Sunday, a high-level delegation of Turkish energy officials visited Israel.

A meeting between Israeli and Turkish diplomats in Ankara, Turkey on February 1, 2017. (Yuval Rotem, courtesy)
A meeting between Israeli and Turkish diplomats in Ankara, Turkey on February 1, 2017. (Yuval Rotem, courtesy)

The delegation met Israeli Energy Ministry officials, as well as representatives of Delek Group and Noble Energy, the two main members of a concern developing Israel’s massive natural gas fields in the Mediterranean. One key issue on the agenda, according to reports: an initiative to lay an underwater gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey.

Turkey has generally seen a huge overall drop in the number of tourists visiting the country amid a string of terror attacks in recent years.

Turkish special force police officers and ambulances are seen at the site of an armed attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. (AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL)
Turkish special force police officers and ambulances are seen at the site of an armed attack January 1, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey. (AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL)

Last month, 39 revelers, including an Israeli teenager, were gunned down at Istanbul’s glamorous Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve, a terror attack claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

In March 2016, three Israeli tourists were amone four killed in a suicide bombing in the city’s shopping district, where at least 36 others were wounded. That attack was preceded by a bombing in Ankara the previous month, where 36 people were killed. In January 2016, a suicide attack killed at least 12 people.

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