Shortly before Israel's President Yitzchak Herzog left for Ankara on Wednesday, he spoke of a "fresh start" that Israel was aiming for in relations with Turkey.

The mutual relationship has "certainly known ups and downs as well as difficult moments" in recent years, said Herzog;

now they want to rebuild it “gradually and carefully”.

Christian Meier

Political correspondent for the Middle East and Northeast Africa.

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Rainer Herman

Editor in Politics.

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Herzog's two-day trip to Turkey is the most visible sign of this cautious rapprochement so far.

The first visit by an Israeli leader to the country since 2008 began with a wreath-laying ceremony at Ataturk's mausoleum in Ankara.

In the sleet, Herzog was then received by Tayyip Erdogan in front of the Presidential Palace.

It was the Turkish president who had courted Israel and Herzog in particular in recent months.

After his election as president in July last year, Erdogan called to congratulate him and then repeatedly publicly expressed his hope of meeting Herzog.

The Israeli side understood the message: Erdogan wanted to end the political ice age between the two countries.

Israel and Turkey had cooperated closely for many years, not least in the military sphere.

The Israeli military's storming of the Turkish ship "Mavi Marmara" en route to the Gaza Strip in May 2010, killing nine, poisoned relations for the long term.

In a further escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and withdrew its own in 2018.

Now the tide has turned.

For some time now, the Turkish leadership has been trying to reposition itself regionally.

Erdogan's tone has changed noticeably.

Still in September 2020,

Striving for a “problem-free circle”

A lot has happened in the year and a half since then: a month ago, on February 14, Erdogan visited the Emirates for the first time in almost a decade.

He has also announced that he will visit Saudi Arabia shortly.

Ankara and Cairo are also preparing to resume their relations.

Turkey is striving for a "problem-free circle" in its neighborhood with regional allies, according to Ankara.

With this reorientation of its foreign policy, the AKP government is continuing the policy of “zero problems” with its neighbors, which it had been pursuing since 2002.

Only in 2011, with the start of the uprisings in Arab countries, did Erdogan's policy change: He now claimed a leading role in the region.

After the attempted coup in 2016, Turkish foreign policy also became increasingly aggressive and assertive.

The reorientation of foreign policy is based on the realization that Turkey cannot solve the problems in its neighborhood on its own.

In this context, Ankara has four expectations of Israel.

First, both states feel threatened by Syria.

Turkey therefore intervened in the north with ground troops, while Israel is attacking Iranian positions with its air force from the south.

Second, Turkey and Israel are concerned about Iran's nuclear program, both wanting to curb Iran's influence.

Third, Erdogan announced that talks with Israel on energy cooperation would begin in March.

Because Turkey wants to reduce its large energy dependency on Russia with gas imports from Israel.

Fourth, Ankara hopes that the Jewish lobby in the United States will lobby in Congress to

Israel has responded to Turkish advances with caution.

Shortly before his Turkey trip, Herzog visited Greece and Cyprus - two countries that are suspicious of Turkey and an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement.

And Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a newspaper interview in January that he had "no illusions" about Turkey.

In Israel it is said that one would not be surprised if Erdogan unleashed anti-Israeli tirades at the next opportunity.

The re-deployment of ambassadors was not announced for the time being.

But they remain in contact: As Herzog and Erdogan announced after their meeting, the Turkish foreign minister will visit Israel in April.