ISIL, PKK make Israel-Turkey ties ‘urgent’

ISIL, PKK make Israel-Turkey ties ‘urgent’

Cansu Çamlıbel
ISIL, PKK make Israel-Turkey ties ‘urgent’ Malcolm Hoenlein, the vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and considered to be a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has told daily Hürriyet that the problems caused by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have created an “urgency and responsibility” to mend ties between Turkey and Israel.

“It is a unique moment for many reasons and we shouldn’t lose it. It makes it in some sense more difficult because you have so many overlaying problems of ISIS [ISIL], the PKK [and the] safety and security of people. But at the same time it creates urgency and responsibility,” Hoenlein said via Skype in Jerusalem. He was among a group who met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month.

Two days after their visit to Ankara, Hoenlein’s delegation went to Egypt before returning to Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem, he said, adding he will also have meetings in Europe soon. 

“For Israel and Turkey, the trade [between the two countries] had not been affected even during the most difficult and tense times. That is the expression of people [who] want [to] work together. Israel has a lot to offer, Turkey has a lot to offer. That is one of the things we aspire for and hope to help foster in our visits,” he said. 

Speaking on their meeting with Erdoğan, Hoenlein said the meeting was “very productive and a very honest exchange.” 

“We covered a lot of regional issues, bilateral issues [and] issues related to the U.S. as well. We go back with a better understanding of terms with Turkey and perhaps some positive steps we can take working with the government. And also understanding differences is an open and honest way to begin to find answers and solutions,” he said. “I thought President Erdoğan was very direct with us [and] gave us a lot of time for a meaningful dialogue.” 

Responding to a question on Erdoğan’s policy priorities, Hoenlein said the majority of these issues were related to Gaza. “He made a very strong case about why there should be a focus on economic and other conditions, which we share and now the government of Israel shares. They made cases [for] allowing in building materials; 800 or 900 trucks a day go from Israel to Gaza. There is not a blockade in that sense but he talked about the lack of opportunities. But it is a result of the threat [of] terrorism,” he said.

“The president put forward a plan that talked about steps that he was proposing. And I am sure this will be discussed in the bilateral [talks] between Israel and Turkey […] that are going on,” he added.