JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to reconcile, ending a six-year cut in diplomatic ties.
As part of the agreement, which was formally announced today and will be signed separately in Jerusalem and Ankara tomorrow, Turkey has agreed to work to convince Hamas in Gaza to repatriate two Israeli nationals and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
Israeli news outlets reported that the agreement had been reached in Rome on Sunday, citing an unnamed senior Israeli official involved with the negotiations.
Relations between Israel and Turkey broke down in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, when Israeli commandos boarded and killed nine Turkish citizens in clashes on a boat attempting to break Israel’s Gaza blockade.
The deal, according to the senior official, reportedly calls for Israel to create a $20 million humanitarian fund as compensation to the families, which would not be released until Turkey passes legislation closing claims against the Israeli military for the deaths. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously apologized for the deaths, another Turkish condition for the resumption of diplomatic ties.
Turkey reportedly also has withdrawn its demand that Israel halt its Gaza blockade, but Israel will allow Turkey to establish building projects in Gaza with the building materials entering Gaza through Israel’s Ashdod Port. The building projects reportedly include a hospital, a power station and a desalinization plant.
Following the signing of the agreement, Israel and Turkey will normalize relations including appointing ambassadors to each country. In addition, all restrictions on diplomatic, security, military and intelligence cooperation will be lifted.
Statements on Saturday night from the families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in 2014, said the return of their sons’ remains should be part of the rapprochement deal.
Netanyahu said Israel is doing everything it can to bring home the bodies of Shaul and Goldin to their parents.