A delegation of MKs from the Shas party was in Turkey several days ago, where it met with representatives of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The parties spoke about the relations between Israel and Turkey, which have been strained for months.
The meetings were attended by Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an expert on the Middle East from Bar-Ilan University, who told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that it is amazing how a common language can be found between religious Jews and Muslim Arabs.
“We were there on an informal visit with MK Nissim Zeev and Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen of Shas and several others,” Kedar said. “The visit was intended to find a way to bring the Israeli political community and the political community in Turkey together, in hopes that it will also affect the relationship between the two governments.”
Dr. Kedar said the invitation to meet with representatives on behalf Erdogan was made by a Turkish businessman who is involved in political activity.
“We met with dozens of people from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development party,” he said. “They were very sympathetic and even posed for pictures with us. They have great respect for Israel and they see us as partners in discussions on the future of the Middle East. They also agree that the Marmara dispute from two years ago has run its course and that it is time to move forward.”
Kedar noted that during their visit, the Israelis were under tight security, saying, “Police accompanied us the whole time we were there. The person who actually paid for our stay is Adnan Oktar, who ordered the hotel, flight, security and kosher food.”
Kedar added that after the meeting, his conclusion is that hareidi religious representatives find it easier to find a common language with representatives of Islamic parties.
“It turns out that traditional Islamic people find it easier to talk to traditional Jews who share with them the same cultural world, and perhaps it is time that the Foreign Ministry also understand this, and send people with beards and hats to do PR for Israel,” he said.
“The Muslims who oppose the Western liberal culture can connect to hareidi representatives and talk to them about joint projects that would battle the moral decline in Western culture,” added Kedar.
Turkey-Israel relations have gone downhill since the incident on the Mavi Marmara, which occurred when the ship refused to turn aside when ordered to, attempting instead to break the blockade on Gaza by force.
When IDF soldiers boarded the ship they were violently attacked. Soldiers opened fire in response, killing nine Turkish activists.
The incident caused Israel’s relationship with Turkey, already strained, to break down completely. Turkish leaders demanded an apology, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently told Turkish journalists that Israel is ready to solve any outstanding disputes with Turkey, but it will not apologize to Ankara for the raid on the Marmara.
“As Israel, we are ready to discuss [our problems with Turkey] in high-level or low-level open meetings,” said Lieberman. “We’re really ready to discuss not only this issue but also the Iranian problem, the Gaza issue or the support for Hamas. But [we’re not ready] to discuss in what way we will protect our citizens.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel wants to restore relations with Turkey and that the two countries are looking for ways to normalize political relations.