IAF excluded from Turkish multinational drill

Ashkenazi puts Eiland at head of investigation panel for flotilla incident.

311_Turkey protest (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Turkey protest
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Due to deteriorating ties with Turkey, the Israel Air Force has again been excluded from a multinational military air exercise in that country.
annual Anatolian Eagle maneuvers began on Monday and will continue for a little over a week.
They will include air forces from the United States, Italy, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, Turkey. NATO has sent an airborne warning-and-control-system aircraft to participate.
Defense officials said they were not surprised that Israel had not been invited to participate in the Anatolian Eagle exercises, particularly following the deaths of nine passengers aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, which together with six other ships tried breaking the Israeli imposed sea blockade on the Gaza Strip.
White House officials stressed that they'd been in close contact with Israel concerning the matter.
"Israel did not seek, nor expect, an invitation to this round of Anatolian Eagle, even before the flotilla event," a White House official noted. "This one is not like last fall."
He said that Israel had never participated in the spring Anatolian Eagle exercises, but rather only the fall exercises, so the current practice did not represent a change.
The IAF could not be reached for comment on its participation in previous exercises and seasons.
On Monday night, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi announced that he had appointed former head of the National Security Council Maj.-Gen
(res.) Giora Eiland to head a panel of experts to investigate the Mavi Marmara raid.
In the past, Israel was a regular participant in military drills held in Turkey, but the IAF has not been invited since relations between the countries significantly soured in early 2009, following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
Another exercise – Reliant Mermaid, scheduled for the summer – will also likely be canceled, although by Monday night, the IDF had yet to receive official word regarding a Turkish decision to do so. Reliant Mermaid is an annual search-and-rescue exercise that Israel, Turkey and the United States hold in the Mediterranean Sea.
Israel was removed from the previous Anatolian Eagle exercise last October, days before it was scheduled to begin. As a result, the US Air Force decided not to attend.
Until Operation Cast Lead, the IAF frequently flew in Turkish air space and participated in several annual exercises with its Turkish counterpart.
However, following the offensive against Hamas and the deterioration in relations, Ankara has refused to allow Israel to deploy its fighters in Turkey.
The Defense Ministry is now looking to renew an agreement it signed in 2006 that allowed Israeli jets to deploy for training in Romania. The IAF sent planes to Romania in 2007 and plans to deploy aircraft there again later this year.
Eiland, who has served as the head of similar expert panels in the past, including the IDF’s investigation into the kidnapping of soldier Gilad Schalit, will collect testimonies from all of the IDF officers involved in the Mavi Marmara operation, including Ashkenazi, navy head V.-Adm. Eli Marom and commanders of Flotilla 13, the navy’s elite commando unit.
The panel will submit its findings to Ashkenazi by July 4. Eiland was tasked with investigating the entire decision-making process.
He will also look into whether the navy did a sufficient job of raising a number of proposals for how to prevent the flotilla of ships from reaching the Gaza Strip. The lack of intelligence has been blamed for the outcome of the operation since the naval commandos did not know that they were boarding a ship full of well-trained mercenaries who would violently attack them.