40 Israeli passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were held for several hours by local Turkish police on Monday after their passports were taken confiscated. Authorities in Jerusalem estimate that the detention of the Israeli passengers came in response to a recent incident during which Turkish citizens were detained for questioning by border police at Ben Gurion Airport. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials said there is no news regarding any change in the policy concerning the reception of Israelis. Israeli businessmen who were on the flight said the attitude of the police officers was extremely rude, holding Israelis without any explanation, and causing passengers to miss their flights without caring.
The Turkish news agency, Anatolya reported that Turkish tourists encountered similar treatment at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Turkey on Monday informed Israel’s top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, deputy ambassador to Turkey, Ella Ofek, has been summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry and informed that all Israeli diplomats ranking above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attachÃ©, must leave Turkey by Wednesday. The only Israeli diplomats who will be permitted to stay are embassy spokesman Nizar Amir and other personnel who provide consular services.
On Monday, Opposition Leader Tzippi Livni attacked the Likud government for its handling of the crisis with Turkey, saying that the Jewish Country should have acted earlier to avoid the current situation that she described as the “worst of all possible situations.” Livni said that with appropriate diplomacy, an arrangement could have been reached which did not have the significance of “an apology with a gun pointed at our head.”
“I was there when relations with Turkey were not simple and they invited Hamas after Palestinian Authority elections. After my meeting with [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, they took back [the invitation]. I have been in the negotiating room and I know what can be obtained and what cannot be obtained, so enough with the slogans.”
The French government has also expressed concern over diplomatic deterioration between Turkey and Israel. A statement from the French government said:
“France regrets that the parties have not arrived at an agreement to overcome their differences, despite the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General…with reservations, [France] is concerned by the deterioration of Israeli-Turkish relations and calls these two countries to recover, without delay, the path of dialogue and calm…We have taken note of the conclusions of the Palmer Commission report. We have equally noted that the authors of the report stress that the document reflects the view of the panel on the events and does not constitute a juridical analysis on the legality of the actions undertakenâ€¦France had condemned the military operation carried out in international waters off Gaza… and the disproportionate use of force by Israelâ€¦”
Meanwhile, Turkey (the second largest army of NATO) has more on their plate. A new NATO early-warning radar system is to be deployed in Turkey to help spot missiles coming from outside Europe and namely Iran. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Ghashghavi was quoted as saying:
â€œIran and Turkey are neighbors and friends and fully capable of maintaining their security by themselves and without any interference by foreignersâ€¦The presence of non-regional countries would not only fail to improve the security level in our region but rather make it worseâ€¦”
But the Turkish foreign ministry defends itself:
â€œTurkey’s hosting of early warning radar will constitute our country’s contribution to the defense system being developed in the framework of NATO’s new strategic conceptâ€¦It will strengthen NATO’s defense capacity and our national defense systemâ€¦”
In recent years, according to the Turkish publication, Zaman:
“Turkey has sought stronger ties with fellow Muslim states in the Middle East, including Iran, to rebalance a foreign policy that previously gravitated heavily toward the West. But it has split with Iran recently over Syria’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protestsâ€¦ Turkey, seen as a bridge between the Middle East and the West, has become increasingly critical of Iranian ally Syria, with Turkish President Abdullah GÃ¼l saying he has lost confidence in the countryâ€¦”
Meanwhile, Turkey has been involved for some time in a war with Kurdish rebels on the Iraq border. CNN reports:
A pick-up game of soccer for policemen in the eastern Turkish town of Tunceli turned deadly Sunday night when suspected Kurdish militants opened fire on players and spectators.
A police officer and his wife were both killed in the attack, a local police officer said Monday, on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to give interviews to the media.
The officer said nine other police officers were wounded, while one of the attackers was killed in the ensuing gunbattle.
CNN reports that:
The government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to improve relations by launching a state Kurdish language TV station in 2009. But tensions have escalated between Erdogan’s government and the main Kurdish nationalist political party in recent months. After winning a larger number of seats in June parliamentary elections, the main Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) boycotted the swearing-in ceremony for new lawmakers. Kurdish lawmakers are protesting a decision by Turkey’s electoral board, which disqualified a prominent Kurdish candidate from participating in the June election.
Riots have erupted periodically in Istanbul and other Western Turkish cities over the last six months.
More on Turkey today 8/9/2011
At a Tel Aviv conference, Israeli vice premier Moshe Ya’alon confronted the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayip Erdoganon, Wednesday, “How can you trust a government that consorts with Iran and Hamasâ€¦ Since his government rose to power, Turkey has decided to turn East instead of West. Turkey turned into an Islamic republic from a secular republic.”
In reference to the issue of apologizing to Ankara for the Mavi Marmara mishap Ya’alon said:
“We are talking about a phenomenon that goes beyond this specific incident. The goal is to defeat the State of Israel. If anyone thinks that one word can settle the matter, they fail to understandâ€¦what happened during the flotilla was without a doubt a Turkish provocationâ€¦ We had no intention of ending the incident with fatalities but the soldiers had no other choice but to defend themselves.
The result was not good and we tried to resolve the crisis later onâ€¦ Israel is not at fault for the situation with Turkey. I regret hearing the Opposition chairwoman say that the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks led to the situation with Turkey. Whoever says that in an interview is asking for outside pressure. Perhaps he fails to understand or perhaps he is driven by political interests.”