By World Tribune – 22 Oct 2009
TEL AVIV — Turkey was said to have suspended up to $1 billion in proposed Israeli defense projects after canceling a major air exercise with Israel.
A leading Israeli defense analyst said the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has decided to end defense and military cooperation with Israel. Analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said the Turkish Defense Ministry has shelved a range of proposed Israeli projects.
“New deals worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars offered by Israel’s defense industries to the Turkish Army, as well as cooperation with Turkish colleagues, are being put on hold or cancelled altogether,” Ben-Yishai said in a report.
The report warned that Israel has lost Turkey as a strategic ally. Ben-Yishai said the government and military were seeking a substitute for Ankara, a task that would prove difficult.
[In Ankara, Turkish industry sources said Ankara has ruled out awarding Israel any major defense contracts. The sources said the Defense Industry Undersecretariat was expected to significantly reduce Israel’s presence after at least one key contract was scheduled to conclude in 2010.]
In many cases, Ben-Yishai said, Turkey has selected inferior and more expensive systems than those offered by Israel. He cited an Italian reconnaissance satellite, which was chosen over an offer of Israel’s Ofeq-class spy satellite.
“Only recently, officials in Ankara preferred to purchase a spy satellite from Italy, even though it is inferior in quality and more expensive than the Israeli product offered to Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said.
“Israel has indeed embarked on a process of seeking substitutes to the strategic advantages offered by the relationship with Turkey,” Ben-Yishai said on Oct. 14. “However, this process is difficult and complex, and it is doubtful whether it will compensate us for the lost ties with Ankara.”
The report said the loss of Turkey as a strategic ally has harmed Israel’s deterrence, particularly toward Iran and Syria. But Ben-Yishai said the Israel Air Force would not be significantly affected by Turkey’s decision to ban the Jewish state from the Anatolian Eagle exercise.
“Turkey is not the only region where the IAF can hold drills simulating various combat scenarios — long-range missions, operations in unknown territory, and cooperation with foreign forces,” the report said.
“Nonetheless, the decision to cancel Israel’s participation in NATO’s aerial drill in Turkey must serve as a glowing warning sign in respect to the strategic and economic implications that may follow our growing diplomatic isolation.”