Israeli Navy Ship 311.
(photo credit: Jorge Guerra Moreno)
Israel and the United States started their annual joint naval exercises in the
Mediterranean Sea this week again without the participation of the Turkish navy,
in another sign of Jerusalem’s deteriorating ties with Ankara.
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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.
exercise was last held with all three partners in the summer of 2009 but
following the Israeli navy raid on the Mavi Marmara
last May, Turkey pulled out
of the 2010 drill.
The IDF had expected Turkey would not participate this
year as well.
While Israel’s ties with Turkey have suffered since the
raid, there are growing calls within the defense establishment to attempt to
repair them even at the price of issuing a formal apology. IDF Chief of General
Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said earlier this week the IDF would not
oppose a government initiative to apologize to Turkey.
Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are at odds, for example, over
whether Israel should renew defense exports to Turkey, which largely came to a
standstill after ties between the countries deteriorated following Operation
Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009.
Until the operation and the
flotilla, the IDF had held frequent training exercises with the Turkish military
and regularly flew aircraft over Turkish airspace.
Israel has however
found a new ally in Greece, which has replaced Turkey as a key partner for the
IDF in exercises. Last week, the Israeli and Greek navies held a joint exercise
in the Aegean Sea and practiced rescuing victims from a mock damaged
Greece has also participated in joint Israeli-US
Last April, Greece participated in an anti-submarine warfare
exercise with the Israel Navy and ships from the US Navy’s 6th Fleet. Last
month, the Israeli and Hellenic air forces held joint maneuvers, and the Greek
air force commander visited Israel in May for talks with IAF commander Maj.-Gen.