Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has defended Israel's normalization agreement with Turkey, saying the deal will have "immense" implications for the Israeli economy.
Speaking in Rome, where he is set to formally announce the deal at a noon press conference Monday, Netanyahu said he had updated US Secretary of State John Kerry on the developments.
"We discussed everything that the Secretary spoke about – the challenges in the region from ISIL, east, west, south. We discussed not only American-Israeli security cooperation, but security cooperation in a larger regional context," Netanyahu said.
"We discussed how we can advance the process with the Palestinians, difficult though it may be. We discussed regional implications for stabilizing the Middle East, moving into a place where it will be less convulsive. And we discussed some bilateral issues between us."
"I updated Secretary Kerry about our agreement with Turkey, which we will show at noon. I think it's an important step here to normalize relations on one side," Netanyahu insisted. "It has also immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I use that word advisedly – immense implications for the Israeli economy and I mean positive immense implications."
The PM emphasized that his primary motivation was to actualize Israel's natural gas potential; as part of the normalization agreement, talks will begin towards a lucrative deal to sell natural gas to Ankara.
He recounted how a "gas expert" he met with several years ago had told him "This will create the foundations, part of the foundations, of the future of your economy."
"That has been uppermost in my mind, and I'll say more about that today at lunch," he said.
Despite the prime minister's insistence that the reconciliation deal is good for Israel, the agreement has come under fire from a wide variety of critics – including opposition MKs, members of his own government, a former senior Likud official and the families of Avera Mengistu – an Israel civilian held captive by Hamas in Gaza – and IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies have been held by Hamas since 2014.
Turkey is a key backer of Hamas, and the families say that by not including their loved ones' return in the deal the government has effectively abandoned them.