Turkey authorized a visit by officials from the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul to the couple arrested for photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace, as a senior Foreign Ministry diplomat headed to Turkey on Monday to secure the Israelis’ release.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said “we are working on their release around the clock and at the highest levels.”
“I ask all the ministers and MKs and the media: Think about it as if it is not Natali and Mordy [Oaknin], but your mom and dad in jail in Turkey. That it’s not Shiraz, but your 20-year-old daughter at home, with a five-year-old brother on the spectrum,” Lapid said at a Yesh Atid faction meeting. “It’s not worth putting them in danger for a headline. Let us work.”
Israel’s Consulate-General in Istanbul is working on coordinating a visit as soon as possible, the Foreign Ministry said.
Foreign Ministry Consular Division head Rina Djerassi headed to Istanbul to help Israel’s diplomats in Turkey, who have been working to help the Oaknins.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Oaknins are “two innocent citizens who accidentally ended up in a complex situation.”
The Oaknins, Egged bus drivers who live in Modi’in, took the photo of Erdogan’s palace while in the Camilca Tower, a television tower that opened earlier this year and is the tallest in Europe. A waitress heard them talking about it and reported them to the police.
Turkish police recommended deporting the Oaknins, and notified Israel of its plans. However, the prosecution asked to charge the couple and a Turkish citizen who was with them with espionage. A court extended their remand on Friday for at least 20 days, as the prosecution prepared its case for a trial.
The move toward spying charges against the Oaknins raised concerns that Erdogan’s government could use the case to help him politically, but that theory grew less plausible after the matter was dropped from the headlines in Turkey after a few days.
At the same time, the Oaknin’s Israeli attorney, Nir Yaslovitzh told Ynet on Monday that his Turkish partner on the case visited the Oaknins and found they are being treated appropriately and are in good shape.
Still, Erdogan could use the couple for diplomatic leverage, which could further deteriorate poor relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.
Turkey and Israel technically maintain diplomatic relations, but they have been strained for most of the past decade since the Erdogan-linked IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation) sent the Mavi Marmara ship to bust the IDF’s naval blockade on Gaza, arming some of the people aboard. IDF naval commandos stopped the ship, killing nine activists.
Erdogan has been openly hostile toward Israel, supports Hamas and funds anti-Israel organizations in east Jerusalem.
Last month after Turkey arrested 15 alleged Mossad spies, non-Israeli Arabs whose photos Turkish media revealed. Israeli sources denied the charges.