Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz travelled to Ankara this week to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The visit - which comes at a time of rapprochement between the two countries - is the first by an Israeli defence official to Turkey in more than a decade.
Following his meeting with Akar on Thursday, Gantz announced that the two countries would begin working to resume defence and security relations. "It is no secret that our ties have faced difficulties," the Israeli minister acknowledged. However, Gantz said that from now on the two countries should adopt "a stable, positive approach, maintaining an open dialogue".
"The Middle East region is changing. Alliances are being built, some of which were unthinkable not so long ago, in the face of the threats posed by Iran," Gantz said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
In addition, as Ynet quoted Israeli security officials as saying, during his meeting with Erdogan, Gantz accused Hamas leaders in Turkey of "coordinating and financing terrorist attacks" and urged Ankara to expel them. The Israeli minister also asked the Turkish leader to convey to Iran that Israel "will not tolerate the smuggling of weapons through Syria to its proxies in the region, particularly to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group".
However, Gantz also thanked Erdogan for the joint security coordination carried out in the summer to prevent Iranian attacks on Israeli tourists in Istanbul. "In the past year, Turkey has proved its worth by eliminating threats to Israeli citizens," he said. The meeting with the Turkish president also discussed ways to "promote stability, prosperity and security" in the region.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours the mausoleum in Ankara— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) October 27, 2022
Later he will meet with his Turkish counterpart as well as President Erdogan, as Israel and Turkey deepen their security cooperation — @MatthiasInbar pic.twitter.com/OH3rkV7jtw
Another Israeli security source told The Jerusalem Post that Erdogan, despite his Islamist ideology, "has shown that he knows how to act against terrorism". The senior official also claimed that Turkey and Israel have "their own interests" in this rapprochement. Jerusalem, for example, 'hopes to become a stronger strategic actor in the region, especially vis-à-vis Iran'.
Akar said that during the meeting they exchanged "information and views" in order to achieve "further development of stability, cooperation and security in the region", according to TRT. Akar said that bilateral dialogue and cooperation between Turkey and Israel would help resolve some issues, especially the Palestinian question, where "there are differences of opinion".
This is not the first time that Turkish political authorities have alluded to the Palestinians in the midst of rapprochement with Israel. During his visit to Israel and the West Bank in May, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu already noted that normalisation of relations with Israel would facilitate the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz meet in Türkiye's capital city of Ankara. The visit is aimed at renewing security ties pic.twitter.com/Jt9e5A9xNF— TRT World (@trtworld) October 27, 2022
Gantz also mentioned the Palestinian issue in Ankara, indicating that defence cooperation between Turkey and Israel could have "a positive impact" on developments on this issue. "I believe that much more can be done together to reduce the influence of those who destabilise our regions by supporting or carrying out acts of terrorism against innocent civilians," the Israeli minister added.
Israel and Turkey continue to develop their relations after several years of discord. Since Israeli President Isaac Herzog's historic visit to Ankara in March, the two nations have intensified bilateral cooperation with the aim of normalising ties. In this regard, last August Ankara and Jerusalem decided to re-establish diplomatic relations, which had been broken since 2018.