Turkey and Israel agreed on Wednesday to fully restore diplomatic relations on Wednesday, four years after they were downgraded in the aftermath of a series of violent incidents along Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The office of Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid announced the restoration of full relations in a statement, claiming that the development would “contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability.”
The decision to fully normalize came after discussions between Lapid and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the statement read. Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, separately confirmed the development, claiming that it had been accompanied by the mutual appointment of ambassadors to Ankara and Tel Aviv.
“[The] appointment of ambassadors was one of the steps for the normalization of ties,” Cavusoglu claimed at a news conference in the Turkish capital. “Such a positive step came from Israel as a result of these efforts, and … we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv.”
Despite the normalization, Cavusoglu insisted that the Turkish government would continue to advocate for Palestinian human rights—a point of enduring friction between the two countries. Turkey initially expelled Israel’s ambassador in 2018 after Israeli security forces killed sixty Palestinian protesters along the Gaza Strip’s border fence with Israel. Prior to the violence, the protesters had opposed President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—a designation that most other nations, including Turkey, do not recognize, as it is perceived as negating a future Palestinian state’s claim to the city’s east.
Following the violence in 2018, Turkey and Israel gradually reconciled, and the two countries’ ties were improved by Israeli president Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey in March and Cavusoglu’s visit to Israel in May.
Over the past two years, the Middle East has seen a gradual detente, with several regional rivals and adversaries seeking pathways for diplomacy. In August 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed the Abraham Accords, establishing formal diplomatic relations after decades of tacit political cooperation. In January 2021, four Arab nations restored full relations with Qatar, ending a four-year diplomatic crisis. Turkey has separately improved its ties with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two major Arab nations that have opposed Ankara’s aims in several regional conflicts.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.