(photo credit: Courtesy)
A new Turkish satellite has Israelis eyeing the
end of a US-backed blackout on high-resolution commercial photography of their
turf from space.
The GokTurk satellite due in orbit by 2013 will sell
images of objects more detailed than 2 metres (6 feet) across -- currently the
finest grain available when it comes to pictures of Israel, thanks mainly to
US legislation from the 1990s.
Premium: Save our ties with Turkey
Turks say Israeli delegations closed by terror threats
Turkey's leap into the aerospace market
treads on Israeli security sensitivities given the former allies' recently
strained ties. Unlike with other nations that have fielded commercial
satellites, Israel has little leverage over Ankara.
"We try to ensure
that we are not photographed at high resolutions, and most (countries)
accommodate us," a senior Israeli defense official said.
request this of the Turks? We won't ask for it. There is no one to talk
The official cited Gokturk, and popular space-image clearing houses like
Google Earth, among developments that have prompted discussions in Israel as to
the viability of the so-called "shutter control" over commercial satellite
cameras: "The basic agreement was for 2 meter (resolution). This has still not
changed. In the future, it will certainly change." The current "shutter control"
is anchored in an amendment to the 1997 US National Defense Authorisation Act,
which banned disseminating satellite images of Israel of a grain higher than
that available from non-American commercial sources.
bilateral lobbying to deal with the few such challenges to Washington's
aerospace dominance to emerge so far.
An Israeli firm provided the
telescope for Kompsat, a South Korean commercial satellite launched in 2006. Its
camera offers photos with a maximum resolution of 1 metre (3 feet).
don't photograph our area at a resolution better than 2 meters," the Israeli
official said. "There is always conditioning." FRENCH CONNECTION
have been made to France, whose Pleiades satellite will soon sell images with a
0.7 metre (2 foot) grain.
France, along with Italy, has a subsidiary role
in GokTurk, which experts say may provide pictures of even higher
But Turkey, whose Islamist-rooted government froze relations
with Israel after its deadly raid on a Gaza aid ship last year, has shown no
interest in veiling the Jewish state from GokTurk.
"We decide how to use
the images taken by our satellite," an unnamed Turkish official told the
newspaper Today's Zaman
The dispute is not new. Israeli Defense Minister
Ehud Barak tried to sell the Turks an Ofek spy satellite in 2008. But those
talks collapsed, with Barak aides blaming Ankara's refusal to accept a "shutter
control" clause in the contract.
The Israeli official said such measures
helped prevent "sensitive material falling into the hands of
Israel also frets about its nuclear facilities and other
secretive projects becoming too open to public scrutiny.
Asked about the
prospect of Israel's "shutter control" expiring, the official cited
countermeasures developed by other countries, such as jamming space
communications and even the shooting down of hostile satellites.
about missile attacks from an array of regional foes, Israel has been digging in
-- for example, with a huge government bunker in the Jerusalem hills and a
submarine hangar at Haifa port. These offer some cover from
"We know how to defend ourselves like others defend
themselves, and better than others," the Israeli official said.