Israel appoints new ambassador to Ankara, as Turkish and Israeli leaders meet for first time since 2008

The rapprochement between Turkiye and Israel continues with two significant political developments in a single day. First came the news that Israel has appointed a new ambassador to its embassy in Ankara – the first in four years.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry made the announcement about Ambassador Irit Lillian’s new role on Tuesday. The senior diplomat is already in Ankara, having spent the past two years heading up the Israeli Embassy as the Charge d’Affaires. She has previously served as Israel’s ambassador in Bulgaria and Australia.

Relations between the two countries snapped in 2018, when Ankara withdrew its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador in protest at Israel’s killing of dozens of Palestinians during protests along the Gaza border.

The rekindling of ties started earlier this year, when the Israeli President Isaac Herzog made an official visit to Ankara in March. This was followed by visits from the two foreign ministers, and then a telephone call in August between the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, when they agreed to restore full diplomatic ties.

Turkish President Erdoğan & Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid

On Tuesday, the two men (pictured above) held face-to-face talks at Turkevi (Turkish House) in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. It was the first time that leaders of Israel and Turkey have held a high-level meeting since 2008.

According to official communications, Lapid and Erdoğan discussed a wide range of issues, from greater economic and energy co-operation to intelligence sharing.

Lapid “commended’’ the recent restoration of full diplomatic ties between the countries and the appointment this week of a new Israeli ambassador to Turkiye, the office of the Israeli Prime Minister said.

The Israeli PM also thanked President Erdoğan for intelligence cooperation at the time of Iran’s “attempts to carry out terrorist attacks” on Turkish soil.

Turkish president meets American Jewish leaders

On Monday, President Erdoğan met with leaders of American Jewish organisations at Turkevi, telling them that antisemitism is a “crime against humanity”. The Turkish leader also said he planned to visit Israel, but didn’t say when.

The event was organised under the auspices of the Turkish embassy and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations. It included Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and representatives of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation and Turkish Jewish Community.

Following the meeting, the WJC tweeted: “Straddling the divide between East and West, Türkiye 🇹🇷has an essential role to play in bridging divides as we work to build a better future for all.

“Thank you, President @RTErdogan, for the productive meeting together with @tyahuditoplumu on the sidelines of this year’s #UNGA”.