Irit Lillian
Irit LillianPhoto: GPO

The Supreme Appointments Committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met on Monday and approved the appointment of Irit Lillian to the position of Israel's Ambassador to Turkey.

Lillian served for the past two years as the charge d'affaires in the Israeli Embassy in Ankara. She will be the first to hold the position of Ambassador, after four years in which no Israeli Ambassador was appointed to Turkey due to the ongoing conflict between the two countries.

The decision to appoint Lillian to the position of Ambassador follows the announcement last month that Turkey and Israel would normalize relations by returning the ambassadors and consuls.

Ankara insisted on returning the ambassadors as soon as possible, fearing that if Benjamin Netanyahu returns to power he will try to torpedo the move. Sources around Prime Minister Yair Lapid say that he hopes that the Attorney General will allow the appointment during an election period.

In July of 2021, Turkey and Israel agreed to work towards improving their strained relations after a rare phone call between their presidents. In that phone call, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Isaac Herzog, to congratulate him on taking office.

While Israel and Turkey have diplomatic relations, those relations have been strained in recent years as Erdogan, who is a strong advocate of Palestinian Arab rights, has frequently criticized Israel.

The two countries signed a comprehensive reconciliation deal in 2016, ending a six-year diplomatic standoff following a violent encounter between Israeli soldiers and Islamist radicals on a ship attempting to break through the security blockade on Gaza.

Even since the signing of that agreement, the Islamist Turkish President has continued his verbal attacks on Israel.

In the past, Erdogan has accused Israel of being a “terrorist state”, and called Netanyahu a “terrorist”, after IDF forces opened fire on infiltrators during a Hamas-led confrontation on the Israel-Gaza border.

He also stated that his country will oppose anyone who supports Israel and that Turkey will continue to promote the Palestinian cause regardless of efforts to undermine it mainly by supporters of the Israeli regime.