The agreement will have an “immense” impact on Israel’s economy, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The two once close regional allies, fell out after a deadly confrontation in May 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In May 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish Islamist-linked relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The commandos were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turkish citizens were killed when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defence, and one more died last year from injuries sustained in the incident.
Under the agreement, the deal will involve full restoration of diplomatic ties and return of ambassadors after a five-year freeze. Turkey will deliver humanitarian aid and non-military supplies to Gaza while making infrastructure investments, according to a senior Turkish official. This will include plans to build a 200-bed hospital in Gaza while increasing the supply of electricity and drinking water.
Addressing one of the most controversial aspects of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip would remain in place following the deal but that Turkey would be able to send supplies to Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod.
In addition, Turkey has agreed to end all claims against Israeli military personnel and the State of Israel as a result of the Israeli raid, Israeli officials said.
Under the agreement however, Hamas offices may continue to operate in Turkey for the purpose of diplomatic activity and its leader Khaled Mashal will remain there.
Hamas is a terrorist organisation and it was in Turkey that senior Hamas operatives masterminded the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers that triggered the 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict in Gaza. Turkey’s ruling Islamist AKP government has been accused of harbouring Hamas terrorists by allowing them to mastermind attacks from the group’s Istanbul headquarters.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that reconciliation “would be good for us, Israel, Palestine and the entire region”.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged the reconciliation and worked to bring the two countries together, since both are key American allies in the region and play a central role in defeating ISIS.
Turkish and Israeli officials finalised the agreement in Rome after a series of meetings dating back to last year. Critics were openly pessimistic of the deal after Turkey demanded the end to the military blockade on Gaza with Israel in return demanded the cessation of Hamas activities in Turkey.
Turkey was the first Muslim majority country to recognise the State of Israel in 1949, and the two countries have historically had strong military, strategic, and trade ties. Yet the raid marked the end of normal diplomatic relations, as both countries pulled their ambassadors in the wake of the incident.