Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid met first with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and then with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly Summit.
After his meeting with the king, Lapid tweeted: “Jordan is a important strategic partner from Israel. His Majesty and I have spoken about strengthening and expanding cooperation between our countries as well as maintaining calm in the region.” This morning, Lapid tweeted, “Yesterday I had one productive meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, the first meeting between the Turkish President and the Israeli Prime Minister in almost 15 years. Israel-Turkey relations are key to regional stability and bring tangible benefits to both countries.”
Later in the day, Lapid met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
In the room with Abdullah
Lapid’s meeting with Abdullah was not easy. Violence in the West Bank has escalated in recent weeks with increased Israeli military attacks. Shortly before his meeting with Lapid, the Jordanian monarch addressed the UN and warned against undermining the status quo on the Temple Mount. He said the future of Jerusalem was a worrying issue and “Christianity in the holy city is under attack.” During the meeting, leaders were informed that an 84-year-old Israeli woman was beaten to death by a Palestinian attacker while walking in Tel Aviv’s Holon suburb.
Lapid reportedly told the king that the escalation of Palestinian violence in the West Bank must be halted before the start of the Jewish New Year on September 26, stating: “Israel will not stand by and fight terrorism in all its forms against it, and.” will not allow harm to the security of its citizens.”
Still, Lapid’s office stressed that the talks were “an additional expression of the tightening of Israeli-Jordanian ties and the continued strengthening of the personal connection between the Prime Minister and the King of Jordan.” The Israeli leadership was careful not to react publicly to Abdullah’s statement. Rather, Lapid posted a picture of the two heads of state, who last met in Jordan in July 2022, shaking hands and smiling. Other ministers, such as Defense Secretary 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. According to Lapid’s office, the conversation focused on terrorism against Israelis in Israel and abroad. Lapid reportedly thanked Erdogan for Turkey’s security cooperation last June, particularly Turkey’s willingness to share information with Israeli counterparts to thwart Iranian plans against Israeli tourists in Istanbul. Another security issue was Jerusalem’s demand that Hamas release two Israeli nationals and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who have been held in Gaza for years. The issue apparently arose in connection with Ankara’s relations with Hamas.
During the conversation, Lapid also welcomed the recent resumption of Israeli flights to Turkey, which had been suspended due to the travel warning. The Israeli Prime Minister noted that this development will certainly lead to a boost in tourism in both countries. He also addressed yesterday’s appointment of Israel’s new ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, as a symbol of reconciliation between the two nations.
Where is this going?
- Periods of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have always strained Israel’s relations with its neighbors, particularly Jordan and Turkey. With Israel’s elections just six weeks away, Lapid is doing his best to calm tensions in the West Bank.
- Jordan is considered the guardian of the holy places of Muslims and Jerusalem. Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians were a major cause, though certainly not the only one, of the rift between the king and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lapid and Gantz have made special efforts to close this gap. Lapid and Gantz believe Amman could play an important role in defusing tensions with the Palestinians.
- The meeting between Lapid and Erdogan made headlines in Israel. In his address to the United Nations yesterday, Erdogan hailed the two-state solution as the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called for stopping illegal settlements in the West Bank, but did not particularly criticize Israel. A day earlier, Erdogan had told American Jewish leaders that he planned to visit Israel, but without giving a specific date.