Businessman: Israel-Turkey politics doesn't affect us

‘The relations between Israel and Turkey have had their ups and down, but in the end it will always be a good relationship business-wise’

November 4, 2011 00:13
2 minute read.
Israeli and Turkish flags [illustrative]

Israeli and Turkish flags 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

The deterioration of Israeli- Turkish diplomatic relations has not affected the links between the two countries’ private sectors, according to the winner of the Israel-Turkey Business Council’s award for company of the year.

Afifi Group subsidiary UBSI, the exclusive Israeli importer for leading Turkish bus and truck manufacturer BMC, was presented the 2010 award at company headquarters in the Nazareth industrial zone Thursday night.

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Business with BMC has continued growing at its usual pace over the past three years, CEO Tawfiq Afifi told The Jerusalem Post by telephone earlier in the day.

There had been no objections from either Turkish suppliers or Israeli clients who purchase the imported vehicles, he said.

“The relations between Israel and Turkey have had their ups and down, but in the end it will always be a good relationship business-wise,” Afifi said. “It has not affected us. We [concentrate on] bringing buses that are suitable for the market, with the right service, and that is what is important for the clients.”

Thursday night’s event was attended by about 300 people, including BMC’s deputy president.

Several Turkish journalists also flew in for the event, including reporters from the Aksam and Vatan dailies and the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation.

Previous winners of the award include Flying Carpet, for wholesale tourism, and Tahal and Lipman, for civil engineering and electronics.

Since UBSI’s establishment in 2008 by the Afifi family group, it has become the third-largest importer of buses in Israel. Many of the 350 buses bought from Turkey are used by Afifi subsidiaries operating domestic lines in northern and central Israel and international routes to Amman and the Sinai. In addition, UBSI distributes BMC buses to other Israeli transportation companies.

Until a few years ago, the Afifi Group made do by purchasing European-manufactured buses from other Israeli distributors, Tawfiq Afifi said.

“We have been in the business of buses since the late ’20s,” he said. “As a family we know our needs, and we have always looked at buses that can compete with others both price-wise and quality- wise. In BMC we found quality buses; as you know, today, Turkey is very strong industrially.”

Bilateral civilian trade between Israel and Turkey has grown 30 percent over the past two years, Israel-Turkey Business Council board member Daniel Zimet told the Post. With the exception of Turkish tourism, which has suffered from the almost complete absence of Israeli visitors, relations have remained strong across the private sector, he said.

“The council receives calls all the time from Turkish companies who want to do business with Israel,” Zimet said.

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