Senior Turkish parliamentarian in Israel

Senior Turkish parliamen

Amid growing tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara, a top Turkish parliamentarian will speak Tuesday morning in a Tel Aviv conference, in a first visit of a senior Turkish government official to Israel since Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. Suat Kiniklioglu, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party for external affairs, will speak at a conference on security challenges at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv. Deputy Foreign Minister and former US ambassador Danny Ayalon will join Kiniklioglu on the panel titled "Turkey: A Strategic Challenge and Asset." Last week, Prime Minister and head of the AK Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that if Israel were to violate Turkish airspace in order to conduct reconnaissance operations on Iran, Ankara's reaction would resemble an "earthquake." The relations between the Israel and Turkey, which in past were considered Israel's most important strategic alliance, took a nose-drop after last year's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, during which Erdogan blasted Israel throughout the fighting, called on it to be barred from the UN, accused it of using white phosphorus against Gaza civilians and charged it with other "inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction. Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents." In October, Turkey informed Israel that it would not allow the IAF to participate in the annual Anatolian Eagle exercise. Turkey said that it was concerned the aircraft Israel planned to send had participated in bombing runs against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Last month, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul issued an ultimatum to Israeli industries, demanding they supply 10 long-awaited unmanned aerial vehicles to his country's military within 50 days or risk the cancellation of the $183 million deal. Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.