Turkish truckers, cut off from Persian Gulf destinations by the civil war in
Syria, have begun crossing by ferry to Haifa and continuing on to their
destinations via Israel and Jordan.
The Turkish Daily Hurriyet reported
this week that the new route was a commercial initiative. It clearly had the
backing of both governments, even though it was implemented before the recent
move towards restoration of full diplomatic relations which began two weeks ago
when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan and apologized for the deaths of nine militants aboard the Mavi
Marmara three years ago.
The traditional truck route between Turkey and
the Gulf was through Iraq, but when war and insurgency made that passage
impossible in recent years, the route shifted to Syria. However, as the civil
war in Syria spread, that also became too hazardous.
attempted by Turkish truckers was a ferry to Port Said, a drive through Sinai,
then a ferry to Aqaba in Jordan, and from there on to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
That too has been rendered dangerous by the near-anarchy prevailing in Sinai. It
is also more expensive than the Levant routes.
The Haifa route made sense
to both Turkey and Israel. The Turkish ferry sails from Iskanderun, its closest
port to Israel, just north of the Syrian border.
An American traveler
reported on his blog last week that he and two other foreigners were the only
tourists aboard the ferry sailing between the two ports, but that the ship’s
salon was filled with Turkish truckers playing backgammon and drinking tea. The
Turkish media reports that about 100 trucks a week are taking advantage of the
Israel route and that this is expected to increase to 500.
diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey were virtually frozen following
the maritime clash three years ago – and the flood of Israeli tourists to Turkey
dwindled to a trickle – commercial relations have thrived during this period.
Turkey’s imports from Israel increased from $1.3 billion in 2010 to $1.85b. in
the past year.