After deteriorating for over a year now, Israeli-Turkish relations hit an all-time low Friday when the latter cut military agreements with Israel and reduced its diplomatic presence to a second-secretary level, telling Israeli diplomats to leave the country by Wednesday. That announcement was followed on Tuesday by a statement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that Ankara was suspending all defense industry and trade ties with Israel, and would impose new sanctions on the former friend. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has also said that Ankara will soon bring a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.
According to Erdogan, Turkey’s actions are a result of Israel’s refusal to apologize for last year’s raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza that left nine people dead. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, has repeatedly refused to apologize for the Israeli raid that was carried out in order to protect his citizens, although he has expressed his regret for the loss of life on that day.
The Mavi Marmara ship, raided by Israel when it tried to break the blockade on Gaza, received a hero’s welcome when it arrived home in Turkey.
Turkey’s latest moves against Israel come on the heels of the release of a United Nations report on that deadly raid. Known as the Palmer Report, the UN committee concluded that Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza is legal under international law, that the Turkish government could have done more to persuade Flotilla organizers not to stand-off with Israeli forces, and that Israeli forces faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers.”
Is there a connection between Turkey’s push away from Israel and the UN report? Most likely. Turkey has spent the last year or so climbing the Arab World’s latter by heavily criticizing not only Israel’s raid that killed nine, but also its blockade on the Gaza Strip. The UN report threatened Ankara’s new status, and Erdogan’s solution to that problem was to downgrade Turkey’s ties with Israel.
Indeed, Erdogan’s move is just another reminder that Ankara’s foreign policy shift, in play since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) was first elected into power in 2002, is here to stay.