Netanyahu Tells U.S. Congressmen: Reconciliation Agreement With Turkey Is Very Close

In meeting with visiting lawmakers, PM is highly optimistic over normalization of ties with former close ally Turkey, sources say; crucial meeting between negotiating teams expected to be held in Europe next week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. congressmen on Monday that an agreement on reconciliation with Turkey is very close, said sources involved in the meeting. However, officials in Jerusalem are still waiting to set the decisive meeting between the two negotiating teams during which the remaining disagreements are meant to be closed.
Netanyahu was very optimistic about relations with Turkey, repeating his statements on the matter three times during the meeting with the congressmen, said the sources. Netanyahu noted that while relations will not return the level they were at a decade ago, normalization will help both nations in advancing a long list of shared regional interests.
The remaining differences between Israel and Turkey only involve the wording of the compromise concerning the Hamas military headquarters operating in Istanbul, which Israel is demanding to close down, said a senior Israeli official. The decisive meeting between the two negotiating teams was supposed to have been held a few weeks ago, but was postponed after the resignation of former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the appointment of a new prime minister in his stead. The next meeting is expected to be held next week in Europe.
In recent weeks, Turkey has sent a number of positive signals towards Israel, including ending its veto over Israeli cooperation with NATO, said the senior Israeli official. In addition, for the first time in five years, Turkey sent senior officials from its foreign ministry to the annual reception at the Israeli embassy in Ankara.
Officials from Turkey and Israel are holding more meetings to normalize relations and two out of Ankara's three conditions for reviving ties have been met, Turkish deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on Monday. Israel has agreed to apologize for the deaths of Turkish citizens during the Gaza Flotilla in 2010, and is also willing to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of those killed and injured, he said.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Kurtulmus said lifting Israel's embargo on the Gaza Strip was important for normalization. A senior Israeli official said the two countries have reached understandings that will allow Turkey to play a part in the process of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip, as well as building infrastructure facilities there, such as power and desalinization plants.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press briefing in Zagreb, Croatia a month ago that Turkey offered during negotiations to send a ship, anchored in Israel's Ashdod port, to provide electricity for Gaza to help cope with the Strip's severe energy crisis. He said Israel was reluctant, and offered the establishment of a power plant within Gaza, carried out between Turkey and Germany, as an alternative project.
"We said that could be possible," said Erdogan. "We still haven't given up on the ship. Israel is also positive toward our proposal to address Gaza's water problem through water desalination plants or wells. There is also a need for schools and hospitals. We are seeking donors. Some have promised to contribute."

Barak Ravid

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: 2016 05 30 alle 22.49.47

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

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