Turkey mulls cutting economic ties with Israel

Israel's refusal to apologize for the Marmara incident seems final.

Turkey has informed the US that Israel's refusal to apologize for the IDF operation to thwart last year's Turkish flotilla bringing supplies to the Gaza Strip will not go unpunished. The flotilla was attempting to break the naval blockade that Israel has imposed on the territory. Eight Turkish citizens and one US-Turkish citizen aboard one of the vessels, the Mavi Marmara, were killed in the operation when, according to the IDF, militants assaulted Israeli commandos taking over the ship. The Turkish government says that Israel's refusal to accede to Turkish demands for an apology will naturally lead to further deterioration in relations between the two countries. Among other things, Turkey is examining the possibility of cutting off economic ties with Israel completely, according to a report in Turkish newspaper Hürriyet.

Sources inform "Globes" that, despite the Turkish threat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision not to issue an apology is final. Jerusalem believes that such an apology will not lead to an improvement in relations with Ankara, and will only strengthen the political standing of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey and Israel have made attempts to meet each other halfway in the past few months, but the perception grew in Jerusalem that Erdoğan was constantly upping the ante. His behavior on the international stage, not just on the narrow question of Israel-Turkish relations, indicates that he suffers from megalomania, according to Israeli assessments. Because of this, decision makers in Jerusalem came to the conclusion that an Israeli apology would fail to damp down the flames of the dispute with Ankara, and would instead give Erdoğan more mileage without Israel deriving any benefit.

According to reports in Washington, the US pressured Israel to try to reach agreement with Turkey on a formula for an apology, but so far, Netanyahu has refused to concede on the matter. However, in response to a US request, Israel has asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to defer the release of the Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara incident, to enable further negotiations with Turkey to take place. The report is due to be published tomorrow (Tuesday). Turkey earlier made its own approach to the Secretary General to defer publication, but he has decided to reject both requests and to release the report as planned.

According to reports in the press, the commission recognizes Israel's right to act against those who threaten its stability and security, even in international waters, but severely criticizes the IDF for use of excessive force against civilians.

According to Hürriyet, among the reprisals being considered by Turkey if Israel does not apologize are the downgrading of diplomatic relations between the two countries to the level of second secretary, suspension of all economic and political ties, and an older threat: a visit by Erdoğan to the Gaza Strip. There is also no doubt that Turkey will be an enthusiastic supporter of the Palestinians' initiative to win UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Despite the tension between Jerusalem and Ankara, economic activity between Israel and Turkey has carried on almost as normal. Professor Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, associate professor of international relations at Ankara's Gazi University, described relations between the two countries to Turkish newspaper Zaman: “The relationship between Turkey and Israel has deteriorated somewhat on the surface, but deep underneath there really is no change in the relationship. Economically, we have seen some decrease in tourism, but the red lines have not been crossed and the US will not let two of its most important allies in the Middle East cross those lines."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 22, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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