Ankara undecided on whether to expel IDF attaché

IDF wants Col. Moshe Levy to remain in Turkey despite crisis.

Erdogan press 311 (photo credit: Umit Bektas/Reuters)
Erdogan press 311
(photo credit: Umit Bektas/Reuters)
Israel’s military attaché to Turkey was in Israel on Wednesday for consultations as it waited to hear whether the officer was going to be expelled from Ankara in line with Turkey’s decision to downscale its ties with Israel.
Col. Moshe Levy, former head of the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, took up his post in Ankara last month and returned to Israel on Tuesday amid Turkish news reports that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government would decide Wednesday if he will be expelled.
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Defense officials said Israel attached great importance to Levy’s continued deployment in Turkey despite the current crisis between the countries.
Israel’s ambassador to Turkey Gabi Levi was expelled earlier this week and his deputy is expected to leave the country in the coming days after the Erdogan government decided to expel all diplomats above the rank of second secretary.
Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper reported Wednesday that a decision about Levy would be made by the end of the day. The paper said Turkey had already recalled its military attaché from Tel Aviv but has left his deputies in place.
A senior defense official said Israel would prefer to keep its attaché in Turkey, and the IDF had yet to receive an official expulsion order from the government in Ankara. There have been reports Turkey decided to keep Levy in Ankara as a goodwill gesture to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
“We are continuing with business as usual and will wait to hear what the Turkish government decides,” one official said. “Our preference is to keep the attaché there.”
IDF sources said Levy’s continued presence in Ankara could be crucial in efforts to retain an open line of communication with the Turkish military.
Israeli-Turkish defense ties have been significantly downgraded since the Mavi Marmara incident and the countries’ forces no longer train together.