Turkish president hosts leading Jewish delegation

Turkish president hosts leading Jewish delegation

Turkish president hosts leading Jewish delegation

AA photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 9 hosted a leading delegation representing influential Jewish lobbying groups in the United States in a sign of Ankara’s willingness to normalize bilateral ties with Israel.

Erdoğan hosted a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Turkish Jewish Community President İshak İbrahimzadeh at a closed-door meeting at his presidential palace. Turkish officials were strictly tight-lipped about the composition of the Conference of Presidents delegation.

However, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that representatives of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) were also among the delegation.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the conference’s vice chairman, who is considered to be a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrived at the Ankara meeting directly from Jerusalem, The Times of Israel, an English-language Jerusalem based online newspaper, reported.

The delegation was set to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later in the evening. 

Turkey and Israel are two countries in the Middle East that need each other, Erdoğan said in early January. 

“Israel is in need of a country like Turkey in the region. We have to admit that we also need Israel,” he said at the time.

Days later, in late January, Netanyahu expressed hope regarding the normalization of relations with Turkey, saying they were in talks with Turkey to restore ties.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on the side lines of the World Economic Forum meetings in the Swiss resort of Davos, Netanyahu said, “We are talking to them [Turkish officials], and they are talking to us and if we succeed, that will be good for both countries.” 

Relations with Israel have been tense since May 31, 2010, when Israeli forces raided a Gaza-bound flotilla of mainly Turkish activists, killing 10 people aboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the six vessels in the flotilla.

More than five years later, Turkey and Israel have begun talks to normalize relations, Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed in December. 

In order to restore ties, Turkey has demanded an apology from Israel, compensation for the families of those killed in the attack and the lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza.