Turkey’s Erdogan discusses Israel-Saudi peace deal in first-ever meeting with Netanyahu

Past harsh words are forgotten as the two leaders discuss issues including Israel normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia, which President Erdogan supports.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan for the first time ever Tuesday, taking advantage of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss regional and international issues in a friendly atmosphere.

According to the government’s readout of the meeting, political issues included the current efforts to normalize ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which Erdogan had publicly said the previous day that he supported.

While a Turkish readout stated that they also touched on the Palestinian arena, this was not mentioned in Israel’s official press release.

There were many other areas of mutual interest that the two discussed, as Netanyahu noted that “our ties are strengthening.”

Erdogan mentioned several, saying, “Turkey can cooperate with Israel in the fields of energy, technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and cyber security. Through this we can strive together for a world where peace prevails.”

One particular issue of great importance to Turkey that was discussed was Ankara’s desire to become Israel’s conduit of natural gas to Europe, which would greatly help its precarious economy.

A different route, with a pipeline that runs instead to Cyprus and then to Greece, was nixed last year by the Biden administration for both economic and political reasons, but Nicosia is still interested in a variation that would see it build a gas liquification plant and ship the vital resource to the continent.

Netanyahu also thanked his counterpart “for the fruitful cooperation between the security organizations that thwarted the malicious intentions of terrorist groups to harm Israeli tourists in Istanbul and thus saved lives,” the Prime Minister’s office said.

In June 2022, Turkey’s intelligence service thwarted an Iranian-backed plot to murder two groups of Israelis visiting Turkey’s largest city, and kidnap Israeli diplomats as well. Four months earlier, the Turks uncovered a planned assassination of an Israeli businessman in the city and informed the Mossad, who moved him to a safe house.

The two longtime leaders of their respective countries sat down in the Turkish House in New York to talk in a clear shift away from the animosity the two have shown each other over the last decade. In a bid to assert Turkish leadership of the Muslim world, Erdogan had regularly compared Israel to Nazi Germany when it ran counter-terror operations, and called Netanyahu a “tyrant,” among other epithets. In turn, Netanyahu variously labeled Erdogan a “liar” and a “dictator” and accused him of helping Palestinian terrorists “kill innocent people.”

In 2018, the countries downgraded their diplomatic relations by removing their ambassadors, although trade ties were not affected. Erdogan slowly thawed, in what was seen in the West as a necessary move to help his country economically and politically. President Isaac Herzog paid an official state visit to Ankara in March 2022 and the ambassadors returned to their respective embassies that August.

Erdogan also called Netanyahu to congratulate him on his re-election last year, saying that it would be “the beginning of a new era in the Turkey-Israel relations,” and Netanyahu returned the compliment when Erdogan won another term four months ago.