Netanyahu Lauds ‘Immense’ Benefits of Normalization with Turkey

Netanyahu Kerry

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel’s agreement with Turkey to normalize ties after suspending them six years ago will have great implications for the Israeli economy.

The Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, which is to be officially announced later in the day, is meant to end a bitter six-year rift between the Mideast powers.

Speaking in Rome during talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on various issues in the Middle East, including the Islamic State (ISIS) threat on Israel’s borders, Netanyahu said the agreement is an important step, alluding to the development of Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves.

“I use that word advisedly, immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications,” the Israeli prime minister said.

As Netanyahu and Kerry met for the second time in as many days, the US top diplomat welcomed the agreement and congratulated Netanyahu. He said the US has been working on the rapprochement for several years, and called it a “positive step.”

“Most importantly, Israel is, as everybody knows and we reiterate again and again, a critical ally and friend of the United States, and Israel continues to be facing significant challenges. We talked about those, and the ways in which, hopefully, with good effort by all leaders, we can try to change the direction and find a positive way to affect the lives of everybody – Israelis, Palestinians, people in the neighboring countries – and move towards a more stable and peaceful future,” Kerry said.

Israel and Turkey were former close allies, but relations imploded in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident.

Turkey Marmara Israel

Mavi Marmara activists prepare to attack IDF soldiers. (IDF)

The Mavi Marmara was part of a flotilla of Turkish vessels traveling to Gaza, ostensibly to deliver humanitarian aid and medical supplies, but in reality it was an attempt to defy Israel’s sovereignty and was meant to support the Palestinian Hamas terror organization, which rules Gaza.

The only humanitarian aid found on board were boxes of expired medications.

IDF forces boarded the ship and were viciously assaulted. They killed 10 Turkish nationals while defending themselves, and several IDF soldiers suffered wounds as well.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and greatly scaled back military and economy ties.

The move toward rapprochement comes amid Turkey’s deepening isolation in the region, following a deterioration of ties with Russia and Egypt, as well as the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

An Israeli official said the impending deal would include $20 million in Israeli compensation for families of those killed in the raid, an end to all Turkish claims against Israeli military personnel and the State of Israel over the raid, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors.

A senior Turkish official said that under the agreement, Turkey would deliver aid to Gaza and engage in infrastructure investments to construct residential buildings and a hospital, and to address energy and water shortages in Gaza.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefed Palestinian Authority (PA) head  Mahmoud Abbas about the deal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Monday. Officials from Erdogan’s office said Abbas expressed his “satisfaction” over the deal.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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Source: United with Israel