Monday, October 12, 2009

Israel rethinks arms sales and support for Turkey

From Ynet News, 12/10/09, by Roni Sofer:

Deputy foreign minister: Avoid crisis with Turkey
Day after tensions with Turkey reach new level with cancellation of joint air force drill, ...Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon says, 'Our interest is not to reach friction, crisis with Turkey, who we consider important strategic partner'

...Despite the deputy minister's comments, senior official in the defense and foreign ministries said the drill's cancelation should not be overlooked. "The incident occurred. We cannot accept this, and we should also maintain our national pride. We should follow closely and see what Ankara is doing, in the formula of 'respect him but suspect him'," a source said.

Ayalon hinted that the Turks also have something to lose from the move: "The commitment to strategic partnership is two-sided. It is important for both sides to maintain the meaningful strategic bond in Israel's ties with the Turkish government, which has proven to be moderate in the past."

Ayalon's comments reflect the growing perception in Jerusalem, and while the Prime Minister's Office and the defense minister's office, as well as the Foreign Ministry are displeased with Turkey's behavior in recent months, officials now hope to calm the storm...

...Jerusalem officials have preferred to view the glass as half full, despite the cancelation of Sunday's drill, and said it must not be forgotten that Turkey remains a veteran member of NATO and that Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government continues to push forward with its efforts to join the European Union.

...In addition, the officials said it the real threats should not be forgotten. "Iran is not just a threat to Israel, and NATO – with Turkey included – is well aware of this. We must find a way to restore relations," a source said.


While Israel kept a low official profile Sunday on Turkey's cancellation of a joint military exercise, defense officials said advanced weapons sales to Turkey would now be reviewed, and a leading academic expert on Israeli-Turkish relations suggested ending support for Turkey on the Armenian genocide issue in Washington if the deterioration in ties continues.

According to defense officials, several Turkish requests are currently under consideration by the Defense Ministry's Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Organization (SIBAT). These will now need to be reviewed due to the change in the diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Ankara...

Ephraim Inbar, head of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, who has written widely on the Israeli-Turkish relationship, said that while someone high up in the Turkish decision-making hierarchy has decided to "teach the Israelis a lesson," Ankara still needed Israeli influence in Washington to prevent the passage in Congress of a resolution declaring the killing of Armenians during World War I a genocide...

...One senior Israeli diplomatic official, meanwhile, counseled against taking this type of drastic action, and said that while Israeli-Turkish relations were "getting complicated," Israel should not do anything "abruptly."

"There is room for quiet diplomacy, and not to take actions that would move things beyond repair. The situation can still be mended, nobody wants to push Turkey into the hands of Iran," he said.

This advice was heeded by the Foreign Ministry over the weekend, which instructed diplomats to make no comment on the matter, but rather to refer all queries to the defense establishment...

...The only official to discuss the matter on Sunday was Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who...described Turkey as "the antithesis to Iran. Here is a Muslim country that is both a democracy and tolerant, living in good relations with Israel because it is in the interest of both countries to do so."

But Inbar said that a change was taking place in Turkey, and the incident over the military exercise should be seen within the context of the country slowly distancing itself from the West, and becoming more Muslim in tone and character...

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