Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Israel fears Gaza war damaged Turkey ties

12 October 2009

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz – 12 Oct 2009

Officials called an emergency meeting at the Foreign Ministry yesterday to discuss the crisis between Israel and Turkey, marked by the cancellation of a joint military exercise that was to include the Israel Air Force.

A senior source at the ministry told Haaretz about concerns that strategic ties with Turkey are in jeopardy after Operation Lead Cast in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

Foreign Ministry sources confirmed that the meeting had taken place following instructions by ministry director general Yossi Gal, but they declined to give details.

Officials are debating the depth of the crisis. One view holds that “strategic ties” has become a unilateral description of the situation and that Turkey’s government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not interested in such links.

“It may be that the reality has changed and the strategic ties that we thought existed have simply ended,” said a senior Israeli official. “Maybe we need to be the ones who initiate renewed thinking regarding our ties and must adopt response measures.”

Supporters of this approach point out that of the countries with diplomatic ties with Israel, Turkey might be the most hostile.

But other officials argue that the situation can be saved. “There is a serious crisis and we need to address it quickly,” said a senior official who has experience with the Turkish file.

Last week Turkey canceled an international aerial exercise that was due to take place in its territory. It was to include the IAF and aircraft and pilots from NATO.

The exercise, to be based at an air base in the central Anatolian city of Konya, was scheduled to include crews from Italy, the Netherlands, the United States and other NATO countries. But unlike the preparations with other participants, the Turks stalled on beginning talks with their Israeli counterparts.

Last week, Turkish military officials surprised the Israel Defense Forces with news that they were canceling Israel’s participation in the exercise because of the country’s activities in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s efforts to gain an answer from the Turkish Foreign Ministry met with evasive responses. Israel then contacted the United States, Italy and the Netherlands on the issue; these countries announced that they would not take part in the exercise.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials say this is an unusual move by the Turks because, despite the tension and Erdogan’s anti-Israeli rhetoric, it’s the first real step that violates the tripartite agreement between Israel, the United States and Turkey.

Israeli officials say that as far as they know, the move by the Turkish military stemmed from direct orders by Erdogan, who has been piling on anti-Israeli rhetoric since the Gaza offensive, which also led to a freeze in the negotiations Turkey was mediating between Syria and Israel.

Analysts say the key change in Turkey’s attitude is that the military has acquiesced to the prime minister’s political directives on an issue of defense strategy.

Erdogan has blamed Israel for committing what it calls genocide in the Gaza Strip and says then prime minister Ehud Olmert betrayed him. Erdogan also confronted President Shimon Peres at Davos in January and has insisted that Israel must be tried for war crimes.

The Turkish leader has also called for sanctions against Iran to be lifted, and has called on the international community to focus on Israel’s nuclear capabilities instead.

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