Row with Turkey over Gaza gets ugly

“It is unacceptable that the Israeli ambassador in Ankara is humiliated at the airport in Istanbul."

May 16, 2018 23:08
2 minute read.

Israel protests security patdown of its envoy in Turkey after expulsion, May 16, 2018 (Reuters)

Israel protests security patdown of its envoy in Turkey after expulsion, May 16, 2018 (Reuters)


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Israeli-Turkish diplomatic relations deteriorated on Wednesday into acts of humiliation against each other’s diplomats. Turkey started the undiplomatic duel by inviting photographers to Istanbul’s airport to film departing Israeli Ambassador Eitan Naeh undergo an intense security check before boarding the plane back to Israel.

Jerusalem responded by inviting the press to cover the arrival at the Foreign Ministry of the No. 2 at the Turkish Embassy, Umut Deniz, who was called in and reprimanded for Ankara’s treatment of Naeh. He was filmed being asked for his documents by a security guard at the gate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel viewed the airport incident – where Naeh was denied access to the VIP lounge, bodily searched and told to take off his shoes – with “extreme gravity.”

“It is unacceptable that the Israeli ambassador in Ankara is humiliated at the airport in Istanbul,” he said, adding that this was the message conveyed to Deniz.

On Tuesday, after Turkey recalled its ambassador and told Naeh to leave “temporarily,” Israel responded by asking the same of Turkey’s consul-general in east Jerusalem. Ankara responded to that on Wednesday morning by ordering Israel’s consul-general in Istanbul, Yosef Levi Sfari, to leave as well.

Channel 10, meanwhile, reported that Israel refused a Turkish request, conveyed through international health officials, to send a plane to Ben-Gurion Airport to take people wounded in the violence in Gaza to Turkish hospitals. Egypt has also reportedly denied a similar request.

Israel’s denial, according to Channel 10, stemmed both from diplomatic and security considerations. The report said Israeli officials made clear to the international health officials that the wounded could be treated either in Israeli or West Bank hospitals, and that Israel was also willing send medicine and medical equipment into Gaza.

Naeh, according to the report, told the Turkish officials when he was asked to leave the country that the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador would harm Turkish efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is convening an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the situation in Gaza. In December, he convened a similar meeting following the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there, a meeting that turned into an Israel-bashing fest.

Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, and according to a statement put out by the Kremlin, the two men discussed the “public protests in the Palestinian territories against the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.”

“Serious concern was expressed about the deaths of a large number of participants in these protests,” the statement read. The “Russian side,” it continued, “underlined the importance of refraining from violence and the need to launch an effective negotiating process to find mutually acceptable solutions based on relevant UN decisions.”

In addition to the OIC meeting on Friday, a massive anti-Israel rally is planned for Istanbul’s Taksim Square that day.

On Wednesday, a Channel 2 television crew that was filming in the square was assaulted when a passerby heard the crew speaking Hebrew. The network’s reporter, Ohad Chemo, said the man yelled “Murderers, murderers,” and dozens of people gathered. One man then began pushing and punching the producer.

Chemo said the crew escaped from the scene, and a few minutes later the police arrived. No one needed medical attention.

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