After decades of healthy diplomacy between Ankara and Jerusalem, relations with Turkey began to sour with Islamic statesman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ascent to power. They continued a downward slide with the Turkish leader calling Netanyahu and other right-wing MKs various epithets while pandering to terrorist groups like Hamas and the PA following the IDF's Operation Cast Lead against Hamas rocket barrages in the winter of 2008. Finally, relations were downgraded following unrest on the Temple Mount in 2018.
The two nuclear-armed nations share common interests, however, one of these being their disputes with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has invested money and military action into preventing Syrian refugees from flooding into the country, while Israel remains in a state of war with its Eastern neighbor.
Erdoğan public statement asserting he wants to revisit improving relations with the Jewish state last week came as no surprise to Israel's military and intelligence elite. In an Axios article published by reporter Barak Ravid, Ravid maintains that two Israeli officials informed him that Israel wanted "to start a low-profile outreach to Turkey in order to determine [the sincerity of Erdoğan's] intentions."
Ravid mentions that over the past weeks, Turkey had sent a number of "ambiguous" messages to Israel via the media and common ally Azerbaijan. According to the report, Erdoğan told reporters that while "we have some difficulties with the people at the top," "Turkey maintains relations with Israel through intelligence channels."
Ravid goes on to state that while Israeli officials are not certain of the Turkish leader's intentions, foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi convened a meeting attended by senior officials to discuss the issue.
According to Ravid's account, Ashkenazi instructed Israeli diplomats to assess Erdoğan's intentions by sending "quiet feelers" to the Turkish leader.
The Israeli journalist says Erdogan’s sudden policy reversal comes as a result of Joe Biden's election victory. He claims Erdogan believes he can improve relations with the incoming American administration, whom he fears will take a "hard line" on Turkey, by improving his country's connection with Israel.
Israel, for its part, says Ravid, will not risk damaging relations with regional allies Greece and Cyprus, long embroiled in territorial conflicts with Turkey, to appease Erdogan.