After Six-Year Absence, New Israeli Ambassador Arrives in Turkey

Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey handed his credentials to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday, becoming Jerusalem’s first ambassador in Ankara after six years of frosty relations.

Eitan Na’eh and his family were greeted by Erdoğan during a brief ceremony in the presidential palace, shortly after a military band played Israel’s national anthem. The veteran Israeli diplomat worked in Turkey in the 1990s and later served as ambassador to nearby Azerbaijan.

“Very pleased to present my credentials to President Erdoğan and to start a new phase in the relations between the two countries,” Na’eh wrote on Twitter after the ceremony ended.

Erdoğan, then the prime minister, recalled his ambassador from Israel after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when a flotilla under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation—a group designated by the Netherlands and Germany as a terror organization—attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. IDF troops who boarded the ship faced what a UN report called an “organized and violent” assault. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight, and several Israeli soldiers were injured.

Na’eh told Israel Radio that the fallout over the incident was “to a large extent” over. “The president said during our meeting that ‘we have turned a new page in our ties,’” Na’eh noted. “Even when the ties knew peaks and valleys, the economic and trade relations were almost not hurt at all. Businessmen continued to do business [and] we are seeing an increase in the number of Israeli tourists.”

Na’eh added that there has already been an increase in delegations conducting official visits between Israel and Turkey.

“We will build the relations, continue the cooperation that already exists, identify areas of cooperation where we will want to cooperate – everything step after step,” he said.

Na’eh’s arrival in Ankara fulfills another step in the reconciliation deal that Israel reached with Turkey in June. Turkey appointed Kemal Okem, a close advisor to Erdoğan, as ambassador to Israel in October. He is expected to take up his post in Tel Aviv next week.

[Photo: Turkish Presidency]