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Turkey-Israel Ties in Peril

Michael Sharnoff

A Gaza panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland turned ugly when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israeli President Shimon Peres of “barbarian” actions in Gaza and “killing” Palestinians. Attendees applauded Peres’ defense of Israel, prompting Erdogan to storm off the stage.

Turkey is perhaps Israel’s closest regional ally and its eighth largest trading partner. Trade between the two countries topped $2.6 billion in 2007. Lately, however, Turkey has been antagonistic. Erdogan called upon the UN to ban Israel, and dubbed Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” Turkish President Abdullah Gul added for good measurethat Israel’s Gaza operation made him “ashamed on behalf of humanity.”

Interestingly, even as rhetoric heats up, Turkey recently purchased attack drones from Israel. So, although diplomatic ties are strained, it appears likely that Israel’s relationship with Turkey’s military, which is very secular and supportive of Israel, may remain intact.