December 5, 2022

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Israel Appoints First Ambassador to Turkey as Countries Restore Ties

3 min read

On Monday, the Foreign Ministry in Israel announced that the next ambassador to Turkey will be Irit Lillian, as she had played a key role in reconciliation of the two countries.

Since February 2021, she has been charge d’affaires for Israel in Ankara and during this time, the two nations have been slowly moving for restoring full diplomatic ties.

Diplomatic ties

Since 2018, there has not been an ambassador, as the rioting on Gaza border that had seen dozens of Palestinians lose their lives had resulted in a clash.

Turkey had told Israel’s ambassador to leave the country and had recalled their own due to the conflict.

The two sides had announced last month that full diplomatic ties would be restored after two years, which involved gradual rapprochement.

This year, there was a noticeable increase in pace, as senior officials from both countries visited each other.

Lillian had previously been the ambassador to Bulgaria and had also served as acting ambassador for Australia.

She said back in August that it was clear that the two countries were part of a process in which they were ready to agree to disagree.

She said that they knew it was not a perfect marriage, as they were entering bilateral relations involving a wide range of activities, but there were numerous points they did not agree on.

Government’s approval

The government needs to give its approval for Lillian’s appointment as ambassador to Turkey, along with the attorney general of Israel.

This is because the country is currently in the hands of a caretaker government, with elections scheduled for November 1st.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in New York at the United Nations General Assembly.

Lapid’s office disclosed that he was scheduled to leave on Monday evening for New York and would be speaking on Thursday at the assembly.

The background

Back in June, Lapid had gone to Ankara as the foreign minister where he had met with Mevlut Cavusoglu, his Turkish counterpart.

They had had talks for cementing the rapprochement of the two countries. Lapid had also talked about security cooperation with Turkey, as it helped in foiling Iran’s plot of killing, or kidnapping Israelis in Istanbul.

Israel and Turkey had been long-term regional allies, but things had changed in 2010 in a raid on Mavi Marmara bound towards Gaza.

This had resulted in the death of 10 activists from Turkey, as they had attacked Israeli soldiers who had come onto the ship.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel back then, had issued an apology to Erdogan, but he had continued to be angry.

In 2014, Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield prompted Erdogan to call them a terrorist state and likened them to Hitler.

There had been a bit of improvement in relations, but the death of Palestinians in Gaza rioting in May, 2018 saw both countries withdraw their respective ambassadors.

At the time, US President Donald Trump had also moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

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