'Erdogan wants to start a dialogue with Israel'

Former Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon says Turkish President's remarks about Israel mark a change in policy and Israel should take advantage.

Nitsan Keidar,

Danny Ayalon
Danny Ayalon
Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash 90

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement with regards to normalization of ties with Israel marks a shift in position, former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Arutz Sheva on Monday.

Erdogan told journalists earlier on Monday that "normalization with Israel" was possible, adding that "there is so much the region could gain from such a normalization process."

"There is no doubt that this is a very interesting statement. Knowing Erdogan, we are well aware of how much he is able to attack Israel and how aggressive his rhetoric can get. There's definitely a very significant change [in this statement]," Ayalon said.

The former Deputy Foreign Minister was unfazed by the Turkish President’s demand that ties with Israel be normalized if a compensation deal is worked out for the nine Turks who were killed during the Mavi Marmara raid in 2010.

"I think his demands with regards to the Marmara story and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza are fictitious,” said Ayalon. “This is because the Marmara issue has already been arranged and Erdogan discussed this two years ago with the Prime Minister under the auspices of President Obama. The financial compensation agreed upon was not transferred because Turkey did not comply with its end of the agreement.”

"There is no doubt that Erdogan wants to start a dialogue with Israel," Ayalon continued, "and I think that today it is definitely in Israel's interest to examine this matter. Today Turkey is in a position of political weakness and distress, so we are in a much stronger place."

According to Ayalon, "For Israel, the picture is clear. We can now go back and demand that Turkey, before any improvement in relations, deports Palestinian terrorists from its territory and not allow any terrorists who coordinate between Hamas in Gaza and Hamas in Judea and Samaria to set foot in Turkey, as well as talk about concern over their close relations with Hamas and Hezbollah."

What is the best way to try and test the sincerity of the president of Turkey?
"First of all we have to do it in a quiet, low-level manner, before we even reach a point of talking with Erdogan - we have to reach agreements on professional levels, and only then make things public."

In your assessment, will the Israeli political establishment test the process of improving relations?
"I believe they will, and that is the role of diplomacy - to examine how serious Erdogan is. Within a very short time it will be possible to check whether the intentions are real, and if the answer is yes, why not take advantage of it?"

Ayalon also explained why he believes Erdogan’s remarks are being made now.

"Erdogan’s policy has always been very aggressive, very arrogant and smug, and today everything is blowing up in his face. Turkey is now in a series of confrontations which brought it to a position of weakness, and the confrontation with Russia made things worse - so I'm not surprised by the timing that Erdogan chose to reach out to us," he said.