Israeli Business Group Welcomes New Turkey Ambassador

YERUSHALAYIM -
Turkish ambassador to Israel Kemal Okem (L. center) stands for the Turkish national anthem before presenting his diplomatic credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Dec. 12, 2016. (Ronen Zvulun, Pool via AP)

The Israel Industrialists Association over the weekend held a welcoming ceremony for Mustafa Kemal Okem, the new ambassador of Turkey to Israel. The purpose of the event was to introduce Okem to Israel’s business community, and to give further impetus to Israel-Turkish trade relations.

Israel and Turkey reduced relations to a bare minimum in 2010, after Turkish activists affiliated with Hamas tried to break the IDF naval blockade and reach Gaza. Soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the Gaza flotilla that was illegally trying to break the blockade, were attacked with weapons by those on board. To defend themselves, soldiers opened fire on their attackers, killing nine of them.

Turkey demanded an Israeli apology and compensation, as well as the “end of the siege of Gaza,” as Turkish officials put it. Relations were restored after Israel essentially complied with the first two demands, and allowed Turkey to provide some assistance to Gaza as well.

Although diplomatic relations suffered during the period, trade between Israel and Turkey remained healthy between 2010 and 2016. In 2016, Israel exported to Turkey over $1.26 billion in goods and services, while Israeli imports from Turkey that year were worth $2.6 billion. “Economic relations with Turkey are very important to us,” said Shraga Brosh, head of the Association. “There is a great potential for trade between our two countries that has not yet been actualized. I have no doubt that we will be able to deepen our relationship in this sphere.”