New Turkish ambassador hopes to enhance relations

Kemal Okam, Turkey's first ambassador to Israel since 2010, presents his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin.

Elad Benari ,

Rivlin and Turkish ambassador Kemal Okam
Rivlin and Turkish ambassador Kemal Okam
Mark Neiman/GPO

Turkey's first ambassador to Israel since 2010 on Monday presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin, finalizing a resumption of relations after a six-year diplomatic rift.

The ambassador, Kemal Okem, was received by Rivlin during a ceremony at his residence in Jerusalem, the president's office said, with the Israeli president offering condolences for the twin bomb attacks that killed 44 people in Istanbul on Saturday.

Rivlin said he hoped the exchange of ambassadors "will open a new and promising page" in the relationship between the two countries, according to AFP.

Okem said at the ceremony that he hopes that reconciliation between Turkey and Israel and cooperation between the two countries will also improve the lives of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

“Turkey and Israel will work together to use the opportunities and face challenges,” Okem was quoted by Haaretz as having said. “We will explore all the opportunities of cooperation. I will do my best to enhance our relations regardless of any difficulty we might face, and we will deal with it together.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received new Israeli ambassador Eitan Naeh last week.

Israel-Turkey ties were severed in 2010 in the wake of the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, which occurred when IDF soldiers boarded the ship after the Islamists on board, who claimed they were carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza, refused to reverse course and dock at the Ashdod Port.

As soon as they boarded the ship, the soldiers were attacked by the Islamists with clubs and knives, forcing the troops to open fire and killing 10 of those on board.

Upon inspection it was discovered that there was no humanitarian aid whatsoever aboard the Marmara.

After the raid Turkey angrily cut off ties with Israel, but the two announced a reconciliation agreement in June, as part of which Israel paid $20 million in compensation to Turkey for the Marmara incident.

Last week, a court in Istanbul dropped a case against four top former Israeli commanders who were being tried in absentia over the Marmara incident.

Dropping the charges against the Israeli commanders was a key pillar of the reconciliation deal.