In New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly summit, Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid met yesterday first with Jordanian King Abdullah II and then with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After his meeting with the King, Lapid tweeted, “Jordan is an important strategic partner of Israel. His majesty and I discussed bolstering and broadening cooperation between our countries as well as maintaining calm in the region.” This morning, Lapid tweeted, “Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, the first meeting between the President of Turkiye and Israel’s Prime Minister in nearly 15 years. Relations between Israel and Turkiye are key for regional stability and bring tangible benefits for both countries.”
Later in the day, Lapid met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and and with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In the room with Abdullah
Lapid’s meeting with Abdullah was not an easy one. Violence has been escalating in the West Bank in the last few weeks, with ramped up Israeli military raids. Addressing the UN shortly before his meeting with Lapid, the Jordanian monarch warned against undermining the status quo at the Temple Mount, saying that the future of Jerusalem was a topic of concern and that “Christianity in the holy city is under fire.” During the meeting, the leaders were informed that an 84-year-old Israeli woman was beaten to death by a Palestinian assailant while walking in the Holon suburb of Tel Aviv.
Lapid reportedly told the king that the escalation in Palestinian violence in the West Bank must be halted before the start of the Jewish New Year Sept. 26, stating, “Israel will not stand idly by and will fight terrorism directed against it in all its forms, and will not allow harm to the security of its citizens.”
Still, Lapid’s office emphasized that the conversation was “an additional expression of the tightening of Israel-Jordan relations, and the continued strengthening of the personal connection between the Prime Minister and the King of Jordan.” Israeli leadership was careful not to react publicly to Abdullah’s statement. Rather, Lapid posted a picture of the two leaders, who last met in July 2022 in Jordan, shaking hands and smiling. Other ministers, such as Defense Minister Benny Gantz have also met with the king in Amman in recent months.
In the room with Erdogan
The meeting between Lapid and Erdogan signaled further rapprochement between the two countries. Lapid’s office said the conversation focused on terrorism against Israelis in Israel and abroad. Lapid reportedly thanked Erdogan for Turkish security cooperation last June, especially Turkish willingness to share intelligence with Israeli counterparts in order to thwart Iranian plots targeting Israeli tourists in Istanbul. Another security matter raised was Jerusalem’s demand that Hamas releases two Israeli nationals and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held in Gaza for years. The issue apparently came up in relation to Ankara’s ties with Hamas.
Also in the conversation, Lapid welcomed the recent resumption of Israeli flights to Turkey, which were halted due to the travel warning. The Israeli prime minister noted that this development will surely lead to a boost in tourism for both countries. He also addressed the nomination yesterday of Israel’s new ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, as symbol of reconciliation between the two nations.
What this boils down to
- Periods of violence in the West Bank and in Gaza have always affected Israel’s relations with its neighbors, especially Jordan and Turkey. With elections in Israel just six week away, Lapid is doing his best to calm tensions in the West Bank.
- Jordan is considered the custodian of Muslim holy places and Jerusalem. Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians were a major cause, though certainly not the only one, in the rift between the king and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lapid and Gantz have made special efforts to mend that rift. Lapid and Gantz believe that Amman could play an important role in diffusing tensions with the Palestinians.
- The meeting of Lapid and Erdogan made headlines in Israel. In his address to the UN yesterday, Erdogan hailed the two-state solution as the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called to stop illegal settlements in the West Bank, but did not particularly criticize Israel. A day earlier, Erdogan told American Jewish leaders he was planning to visit Israel, though did not offer a specific date.