Israel’s new government rejuvenating diplomatic ties

What happened: Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed the EU Foreign Affairs Council earlier this week, the first Israeli foreign minister to do so in a decade.

  • Lapid noted the recent opening of the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi. He said, “We started a new kind of peace with the Arab world … I met last week with the Jordanian Foreign Minister, and we came to agreements on trade and water. Last night I had an excellent meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister. Something good is happening between us and the moderates in the Arab world. I want to expand the circle of peace to more countries.”
  • Lapid related to the Palestinians, saying: “We need this circle to eventually include the Palestinians. It is no secret that I support a two-state solution. Unfortunately, there is no current plan for this. However, there is one thing we all need to remember. If there is eventually a Palestinian state, it must be a peace-loving democracy. We cannot be asked to take part in the building of another threat to our lives … what we need to do now is make sure that no steps are taken that will prevent the possibility of peace in the future, and we need to improve the lives of Palestinians. Whatever is humanitarian, I will be for it. Everything that builds the Palestinian economy, I am for it.”
  • In parallel, yesterday it was revealed that President Herzog received a congratulatory phone call from Turkish President Erdogan on Monday. They spoke for about 40 minutes in what was described as a very positive conversation. A statement from Herzog’s office said he believed that the relationship between Turkey and Israel is very important to the security and stability of the Middle East and that there is great potential for cooperation in many spheres.
  • Yesterday, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Oded Forer signed a cooperation agreement with UAE’s Minister of Food and Water Security Mariam Al-Muhairi. The pair agreed to cooperate on research and innovation, relating to agriculture in desert conditions, water management and irrigation.
  • This morning the UAE formally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv. At the inaugural ceremony, UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja raised his country’s flag alongside President Herzog.

Context: Lapid described the new government as “an exciting experiment in modern politics … a coalition that abolishes the traditional division between right and left. It is new, but it is also a return to the core roots of liberal democracies: making decisions that one can disagree with, without hating those with whom we disagree.”

  • The telephone conversation with Erdogan follows Herzog’s calls with both King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
  • President Herzog is fully coordinated with Prime Minister Bennett, Foreign Minister Lapid and Defence Minister Gantz. Lapid is quoted in Maariv telling Foreign Ministry officials that “Herzog is a partner, and everything is being done in coordination and in dialogue between us. We want to capitalise on his capabilities and connections. As far as I’m concerned, we’re a single coordinated unit.”
  • According to Israeli media, it was PA Chairman Abbas that encouraged Erdogan to call Herzog. His objective is to move Turkey away from their close relationship with Hamas.
  • Israeli-Turkish ties were strong in the past, but over the last decade they have become increasingly strained as Erdogan promoted more Islamification and moved closer to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. In their conversation, the two leaders agreed to maintain a dialogue despite political differences and pledged to cooperate in an attempt to reach a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Looking forward: Following the surprising conversation between Herzog and Erdogan, further talks between the two countries are to be expected. Both sides see potential for cooperation on a range of bilateral areas including trade, energy, tourism and technology.

  • There are similar issues on the Israeli-Moroccan bilateral agenda, with Foreign Minister Lapid expected to make an official visit there soon.
  • The government hopes that within the next few weeks it will also open embassies in Morocco, Bahrain and Sudan.
  • It is also anticipated that President Herzog will soon meet with PA Chairman Abbas.

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