Lapid Visits Turkey Amid Iranian Threat and Political Uncertainty

Israel's foreign minister met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, and sources say primarily discussed security matters

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Foreign Ministers Yair Lapid and Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.
Foreign Ministers Yair Lapid and Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.Credit: Boaz Oppenheim
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday amid foiled Iranian efforts to carry out attacks against Israeli tourists in Istanbul, as well as political turmoil in Israel.

Israel heads to fifth election, and its democracy is on the line

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Sources familiar with the visit said that the primary focus of the meetings have been security, in addition to strengthening the thawing relationship between the two countries. At the same time, both foreign ministers have yet to decide whether to announce that ambassadors will return to each country's embassy.

Foreign Ministers Yair Lapid and Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.Credit: Boaz Oppenheim

Lapid decided not to cancel the planned trip to Ankara despite the deepening political crisis in Israel. On Wednesday, Israel's parliament overwhelmingly approved a preliminary bill to dissolve itself, paving the way for the country's fifth round of elections in the space of three-and-a-half years.

The fact that Lapid may be named the caretaker prime minister in the coming days lends additional significance to the diplomatic visit, considering Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to mend relations between the two countries.

Senior officials say that Israel is being very careful in embracing the diplomatic overtures from Ankara, adding that Israel is responding in a prudent and level-headed manner, since the main concern is Erdogan's fickleness.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented about Israel's relations with Turkey earlier this week, including the countries' close cooperation in foiling attempted terror attacks in Istanbul. "Our partnership with Turkey is strong, and it's carried out on all levels. We have a common interest, and that is to prevent and thwart terror attacks in order to restore order." President Isaac Herzog also spoke with Erdogan in a phone call, and thanked him for the efforts made by Turkish forces to prevent terror attacks against Israeli targets.

Lapid's visit to Ankara comes a month after Cavusoglu's visit to Jerusalem – the first by a Turkish minister in 15 years. "We're not going to pretend that the relationship between our countries hasn't known ups and downs, but we've always found a way back to the table," Lapid said at a joint press conference during that visit. "We are nations with a lot of history, and we've always known how to close a chapter and move on to a new one."

Cavusoglu added that the renewed relationship between the two countries will also help with the Israeli-Palestinian issue: "Turkey is willing to accept responsibility and help establish a dialogue," he said. He added that his country believes that the two-state solution is the only option.

Earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Ankara in an attempt to fully normalize ties with the kingdom, after they were fractured by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Ankara is part of an attempt to rehabilitate his image; at the same time, it allows Erdogan to register diplomatic and economic achievements as he prepares to run for another term in next year's elections.

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