Tukey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Bennett thanks Erdogan for role in release of jailed Israelis

PM expresses his appreciation for Turkey's handling of the crisis to ensure couple's release and commended open channels of communication; officials say positive outcome could bring about warming of ties

Itamar Eichner |
Updated: 11.18.21, 19:44
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday spoke on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanand thanked him for his role in bringing about the release of an Israeli couple detained in Istanbul on suspicion of spying.
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  • This was the first time the two leaders spoke and the first conversation between an Israeli prime minister and the Turkish president in eight years.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Tukey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
    Tukey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
    Tukey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
    (Photo: AP, AFP)
    Mordi and Natalie Oknin arrived back in Israel early on Thursday after they were released from eight days in prison.
    They couple was arrested last Thursday on suspicion of espionage, having taken pictures of Erdogan's Istanbul residence from the city's communication tower.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    מורדי ונטלי אוקנין בביתם במודיעין
    מורדי ונטלי אוקנין בביתם במודיעין
    Natalie and Mordi Oknin in their home in Modi'in on Thursday
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    "The prime minister thanked Erdogan for his personal involvement in the return of the Oknin's to Israel," the Prime Minister's office said in a statement.
    "The PM expressed his appreciation for Turkey's handling of the crisis on all levels in recent days, to ensure a positive end," the statement read.
    Bennett described the situation as a humanitarian matter and commended the open channels of communications between Israel and Turkey, "which worked efficiently and discreetly to resolve the problem."
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    בני הזוג אוקנין נוחתים בישראל
    בני הזוג אוקנין נוחתים בישראל
    Natalie and Mordi Oknin land in Israel early on Thursday after being held for over a week in Turkey on suspicion of spying
    (Photo: Airport Authorities )
    Israeli officials estimate the positive outcome could contribute to a warming of relations between the two countries after years of tension brought about by Erdogan's criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.
    Earlier a source said that there may now be a process of dialogue with Turkey, which has an important role in the fight against Iran.
    The conversation between Bennett and Erdogan came hours after President Herzog spoke with his Turkish counterpart.
    According to a statement released by the President's Residence, the conversation between the two men was in a "positive spirit," and Herzog thanked the Turkish leader for his personal involvement and contribution to the Oknin couple's return home.
    "President Erdogan emphasized the importance that he attaches to relations with Israel, which he said were of key importance to peace, stability and security of the Middle East," the statement read.


    First published: 19:39, 11.18.21
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