Report: Erdogan Tried to Meet With Bennett Before Couple’s Arrest

YERUSHALAYIM -
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO/Handout via REUTERS)

Several months prior to the arrest of Israeli tourists Natalie and Mordy Oknin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made several unsuccessful attempts to secure a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel Hayom reported Friday, quoting political sources.

Officials on behalf of Erdogan reportedly met with Israeli representatives in the United States several times, suggesting, among other things, a meeting between Erdogan and Bennett. Attempts to coordinate the proposed meeting reportedly took place ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in September, but the meeting did not occur due to Erdogan and Bennett’s conflicting schedules.

Turkey reportedly made another request for a meeting a few weeks ago, when Erdogan’s advisers suggested the two meet at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

According to sources, Israeli officials wanted to avoid directly rejecting the request, and therefore, used diplomatic excuses to prevent the meeting – which they felt went against Israel’s interests – from taking place.

The requests from Erdogan’s office come after earlier reports of contact between Israeli and Turkish officials as part of efforts to improve ties.

Turkey’s international standing has been in poor shape for several years. Its relations with the United States hit a wall and its ties with the European Union – which rejected its membership request – have been strenuous.

As for Israel, ties between Ankara and Yerushalayim have been at a low ebb for many years. In Israel, Erdogan is viewed as a leader with antisemitic views. He has allowed Hamas to operate freely in the country.