Erdogan Shakes Israeli's Hand After Six Years

Turkey’s new president and former prime minister shakes the hand of the director of the Israeli embassy at a Victory Day event.

Elad Benari,

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

For the first time in six years, Turkey’s new president and former prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shaken the hand of an Israeli official.

Channel 10 News reported on Saturday that Erdogan shook hands with Yossi Levi Sfari, who is the director of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, during an event marking the annual Turkish Victory Day.

As prime minister, Erdogan was a vocal critic of Israel, going back to its self-defense Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

The relations between Israel and Turkey broke down after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when the Marmara ship, which claimed to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.

The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the IHH members on board.

After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever. 

Erdogan cut ties with Israel after it refused to apologize for the incident and pay compensation to the families of the victims. However, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan at the urging of U.S. President Barack Obama, Israel and Turkey began a normalization process.

Recently, however, Erdogan once again began launching verbal attacks on Israel, this time over Operation Protective Edge. He threatened to end the normalization process with Israel over "state terrorism."

Channel 10 noted that until last year, Israeli envoys were never invited to Victory Day celebrations. Last year, former Turkish President Abdullah Gul invited a senior Israeli diplomat to the Victory Day, the first such invitation since the Mavi Marmara incident.

The video below shows Erdogan shaking the Israeli representative (starting at the 3:50 mark).