The Israeli government and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to begin restoring full diplomatic relations after years of deep freeze, Israeli officials said on Thursday.
The crisis between the two governments began in 2010 when confrontations in the Mediterranean Sea broke out between the Israeli Navy and a Turkish ship.
The Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, was part of a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip when Israeli naval commandos rappelled onto the ship’s deck and killed nine activists. A 10th activist died of his wounds much later.
Now, five years after the Israeli attack, the two governments apparently reached an agreement.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the five main points of the agreement are:
1. In the framework of the agreement, Israel will pay Turkey $20 million in compensation, which will be transferred to a special fund that will in turn provide grants to the families of the Turkish citizens who were killed or injured in the Israel Navy’s takeover of the Mavi Marmara.
2. Turkey and Israel will renew and normalize their relations and return their respective ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara.
3. The Turkish parliament will pass a law that will annul all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers and soldiers in connection with the flotilla incident and will prevent future claims from being filed.
4. Turkey will expel Saleh al-Aruri, a senior member of Hamas’ military wing, who is based in Istanbul and is directing terrorist operatives in the West Bank from there. In addition, Hamas activities in Turkey in general will be limited.
5. Once the final agreement between the two countries has been signed, Turkey and Israel will explore cooperating in the natural gas field – with Turkey buying gas from Israel’s offshore oil fields and the laying of a gas pipeline that would run via Turkey and through which Israel would export gas to Europe.
The reconciliation deal had not been completely finalized yet, but a deal with the Israeli government could restore one of Turkey’s most important relationships, which the United States once relied on to help maintain “regional security”. Turkey used to be Israel’s most important friend in the Middle East, and the two governments still share many strategic interests, including containing Iran.