After Reconciliation, Israel Looking to Appoint Professional Ambassador to Turkey

Foreign Ministry publishes tender for professional diplomat for prestigious post vacated in September 2011.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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The Foreign Ministry released an internal tender Monday for the position of Israeli ambassador to Turkey. This means that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign minister post, decided to fill the position with a professional appointment, not a political one.

A source at the Foreign Ministry said the announcement was sent to all ministry workers around the world, and that the appointment will begin immediately.

Ankara expelled Gabi Levy, the then-Israeli ambassador, in September 2011, after the United Nations published its report on the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident of May 2010. The Turks had pressed the secretary-general of the UN at the time to shelve the report after discovering that the inquiry did not rule in Turkey’s favor. Incensed at the leak, Turkey imposed sanctions against Israel, including expelling its envoy from Ankara, recalling the Turkish ambassador from Tel Aviv, and lowering the level of diplomatic relations.

In late June, after several years of negotiations, Israel and Turkey reconciled and normalized their relations.

During a Q&A session in the Knesset on Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman voiced his opposition to the agreement with Turkey, saying the issue of relations between the two countries should be considered in the broader framework of Israel’s relations with Egypt, Greece and Cyprus. “That is why I have not changed my position on Turkey and towards the reconciliation agreement with Turkey,” he said.

Under the agreement signed on June 28, Turkey will pass a resolution through parliament adopting the reconciliation agreement and canceling claims against Israeli soldiers and officers involved in the flotilla raid. Israel will then pay Turkey $20 million through a humanitarian fund, as well as compensating the families of the Turkish civilians killed on the ship.

Only once these stages are done will the process of normalization begin. One of the first steps will be to name ambassadors.

Netanyahu had considered a political appointment but decided on a professional diplomat instead. Foreign Ministry sources assume there will be competition between leading seasoned diplomats for the prestigious position — though the ambassadorship in Ankara is considered difficult due to the security restrictions that apply to Israeli diplomats in Turkey, established over fear of assassination by terrorists. The fascinating and already sensitive job has become all the more significant after last week’s abortive coup attempt and the ensuing dramatic political developments.