(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) A deal seems closer than ever in Israel’s negotiations to normalize diplomatic relations with Turkey, but some key issues remain unresolved, two Israeli ministers said.
While Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday expressed optimism about the negotiations with Turkey, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said that “no concrete progress has been made.”
Turkish-Israeli relations broke down after the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish militants were killed in clashes after attacking Israeli commandos boarding a ship that was trying to breach the blockade on Gaza.
Turkey has conditioned normalizing ties with Israel on an official apology over the flotilla incident, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered in 2012; compensation for the victims’ families, which is currently being finalized; and a removal of the maritime blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza, a step that Israel opposes.
Speaking at a conference in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, Gallant said, “Israel and Turkey are very close to reaching a deal. This agreement is essential to Israel’s national security and it will have significant implications on the tourism and energy industries, and maybe even the construction industry.”
In an interview with Radio 103FM, Steinitz said, “About 95 percent of the deal with Turkey is done. I won’t go into the details, but I believe we’ve dealt with 95 percent of the issues successfully. I was under the impression we could have finalized things by Passover [in April], but Turkey was just putting together a new government, and that might have set things back a little.”
Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s former prime minister, resigned May 22.