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Turkish president says Israeli election results won’t derail rapprochement

Erdogan tells local TV he is committed to relationship with Jerusalem based on ‘mutual respect,’ even as former rival Netanyahu set to return to power

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development party at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting of his Justice and Development party at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on May 18, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that his country would maintain its recently refreshed relations with Israel no matter the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, even as former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he shared famously prickly relationship, looked set to return to power.

“Whatever the election result, we want to maintain relations with Israel on a sustainable basis, based on mutual respect for sensitivities and common interests,” Erdogan told Turkish broadcaster ATV.

With the final votes yet to be counted, Netanyahu appeared poised for a stunning comeback alongside a right-wing coalition that includes the ultra-nationalist Otzmah Yehudit party, known for its anti-Arab policies.

Jerusalem and Ankara have slowly renewed ties over the past year, following over a decade in which the relationship was strained amid Turkish protests of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

Israel also expressed anger over Ankara’s support for Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Netanyahu, who was leader during most of that period, sparred vociferously with Erdogan on several occasions, with the two often leveling angry public attacks at each other, including accusing each other of genocide.

Pro-Palestinian Turks set on fire an Israeli flag as they shout slogans to protest Israel’s plans to build new housing in East Jerusalem, in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, March 19, 2010. (AP/Ibrahim Usta)

Despite the uneasy relationship, ties were never fully severed, with both countries keeping lucrative bilateral trade and tourism links intact.

Ties 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 seemingly set to be ousted from power.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shows the way to President Isaac Herzog during a welcome ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Last week, 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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