Despite ongoing tension with Turkey, the IDF sent a new military attache to Ankara this week to lead military ties between the two countries.

The new attache is Col. Moshe Levi, former head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration. Levi has vast experience working together with international organizations and countries such as Turkey which has sent aid to the Gaza Strip in recent years with the CLA’s assistance.

“Levi’s work will not be simple,” a defense official said. “He will have to try and maintain an open line of communication with Turkey at a time when the ties are mostly non-existent.”

Earlier this month, Turkey was again absent from the annual search-and-rescue exercise it had held up until 2010 with the Israeli and US navies in the Mediterranean Sea.

Called Reliant Mermaid, the annual exercise was started over a decade ago and included the Israeli, Turkish and American navies.

The objective of the exercise is to practice search-and-rescue operations and to familiarize each navy with international partners who also operate in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2010, Turkey pulled out for the first time in wake of the Israeli Navy operation to stop the Mavi Marmara passenger ship and Gaza-bound flotilla which ended with nine dead Turkish nationals.

There is also an ongoing debate within the government whether Israel should renew arms sales to Turkey despite the ongoing rift.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is said to be opposed to the sale of arms while Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in favor as part of a bid to repair ties between Jerusalem and Ankara.

Until 2009, Turkey was one of Israel’s largest defense customers and has purchased Israelimade unmanned aerial vehicles, Israeli-upgraded tanks, and has had Israel modernize its aging fleet of F-4 Phantom fighter jets. Israel has also sold Turkey long-range targeting pods and additional advanced military systems.

Turkey is believed to be interested in a wide range of Israeli military systems, including electronic- warfare systems, the Spike anti-tank missile manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the Barak 8 naval air-defense missile manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. In the past, Israel has also held talks with Turkey about the possible sale of satellites and the Arrow missile defense system.

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