In recent days, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a congratulatory letter to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog ahead of Israeli Independence Day. In the letter, he said: “On the occasion of the National Day of the State of Israel, I extend congratulations to Your Excellency and the people of Israel on behalf of my nation and myself.”
“In the new period in our relations, heralded by Your Excellency’s visit to our country in March, I sincerely believe that the cooperation between our countries will develop in a way that serves our mutual national interests, as well as regional peace and stability,” he added. Erdogan also extended his wishes “for the health and happiness of Your Excellency, and for the well-being and prosperity of the people of Israel.” This was the third time in recent weeks that Herzog and Erdogan spoke over the phone. The question remains, what role did Azerbaijan play in improving Turkish-Israeli relations?
Lev Spivak, head of the Aziz organization, believes that Azerbaijan played a major role in this: “If you pay attention, when Herzog was in Turkey and spoke with Erdogan, Aliyev was also there. They also wrote in the media that he was there, but did not say anything. I think that Azerbaijan does everything to improve the relationship between Israel and Turkey because it is also good for Azerbaijan.”
According to him, “I believe that the gas between Israel and Europe should also include Turkey and Azerbaijan. That is the basis of the reconciliation. I think that Israel and Turkey can return to having good relations. It will take some time. But the mess between the two is only political. The economic and trade relations are good. Everything is fine except in the political arena. Thus, it will be very easy for things to return to being good.”
Rabbi Shmuel Simantov concurred: “First of all, the president of Azerbaijan and the president of Turkey are close friends, like brothers. Thus, Azerbaijan can help a lot. Aside from that, there are many other things that can be utilized to improve the relationship. The Turks and Azeris view the Jews to be loyal people. Anti-Semitism is not a part of the culture. That is why it is easy for Israel to make peace with Turkey. The Diaspora of Turks and the Azerbaijan Diaspora influence each other all over the world.”
Turkish journalist Rafael Sadi added: “Good relations are a positive thing and there must be good relations with everybody. Now, it sounds like a dream but if we do not dream, we will never progress. Also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. For this to be realized, first Israel and Turkey must normalize the relationship and exchange ambassadors. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to visit on the 24th of this month in Israel. From there, we will see if the relationship is moving in the right direction.”
Zali De Toledo, who served as Israel’s Cultural Attaché in Turkey and used to chair the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, emphasized: “Azerbaijan is a sister country of Turkey because of the language and religion. There is a 20,000 strong Jewish community in Azerbaijan living in peace. We also have a good relationship with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan can improve the relationship between Turkey and Israel. Improved relations are long overdue.” Nevertheless, she noted that Turkey will have elections in 2023 and this could influence Turkish-Israeli reconciliation: “We don’t know what will happen in the 2023 elections.”
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