Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Gaza war creates rift between Israel and Turkey

Posted by claudiacampli su 5 febbraio, 2009

IHT

Thursday, February 5, 2009

ISTANBUL: The four daily flights to Tel Aviv are still running. The defense contract signed in December has not been scrapped. But since Israel’s war in Gaza, something has changed in relations between Israel and Turkey, its closest Muslim ally.

Israel‘s Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped by the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leaving a symposium at the economic meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

In the week since then, both sides have taken pains to mend fences, with officials in both Israel and Turkey making conciliatory statements.

“Turkey and Israel attribute a special importance to their bilateral relations,” the Turkish deputy prime minister, Cemil Cicek, said Monday. “We want to protect our relations with this country.”

But privately, both sides acknowledge that some damage has been done, and while the full implications for the relationship are unknown, many analysts who watch it say they sense a shift.

“It’s not a business-as-usual relationship anymore,” said Cengiz Candar, a columnist for Radikal, a Turkish newspaper. “It’s a very uneasy sort of cohabitation in this region now.”

Turkey has been unique in the Middle East for its robust relations with Israel. It was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel as a state, and in recent years it has built up $3 billion in annual trade, far more than for any other Middle Eastern country, including a bustling tourist exchange and millions of dollars in defense contracts.

Erdogan encouraged the relationship, taking a trip to Israel in 2005 with a group of Turkish businessmen and becoming the first Turkish prime minister to visit the office of the chief rabbi in Turkey, Isaac Haleva, after a synagogue was bombed in 2003.

But when it comes to Hamas, they disagree. Israel views it as a militant group doctrinally committed to its destruction. Erdogan sees other aspects: It began as a grass-roots Islamic movement and like his own party – Justice and Development, also inspired by Islam – was democratically elected against overwhelming odds.

“They identified with some parts of the Hamas story,” said Femi Koru, a columnist for Today’s Zaman, a Turkish daily. “They were also outcasts who were not allowed to join national politics. They were also in the margins.”

When Israel began its war in Gaza on Dec. 27, Turkish officials were caught by surprise, they said. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, had visited Turkey just days before. According to Turkish officials, he had promised a response on talks with Syria, which progressed during the visit, when Erdogan called Syrian officials in Olmert’s presence.

Erdogan, furious, castigated Israel for its military campaign, a stance that he continued to press over the course of the war. Turkey argues that it was simply expressing healthy criticism of Israel’s campaign, which it opposed – words of warning from a close friend that sincerely believed Israel had gone too far.

“Turkey has simply lost its patience with the status quo in the Mideast,” a senior Turkish official said. “Gaza is the bankruptcy of the military solution.”

The official added: “Israel is there to stay, and Palestinians are there to stay, and they need to be talking right now.”

Israel, for its part, says Olmert was not bound to reveal military details to Erdogan. The two countries will remain allies, it says, maintaining the substantial relations between their militaries and their societies, but Erdogan’s reaction means that he can no longer be trusted as a mediator.

“He has burned all the bridges with Jerusalem,” said one senior Israeli official. “He won’t be seen as an honest broker anymore.”

Liberal Turkish columnists criticized Erdogan for what they said was a double standard, raising the issue of killings of civilians by Israel, but failing to mention the thousands of Kurdish citizens killed during military operations in Turkey since the 1980s.

“One would naturally ask Erdogan, who stands up against violence imposed on people in Gaza, what he thinks about Kurds being killed in his own country,” Ahmet Altan wrote in Taraf, a liberal newspaper. “Will he own the Kurdish children who became disabled after police bent their arms in street protests, or crushed under armored vehicles?”

Tourism has already taken a hit. Fewer Israelis have traveled to Turkey in recent weeks, according to travel agencies in Israel. Avi Mendelbaum of Unital, a travel agency in Tel Aviv, said that a year ago his agency alone could fill an airplane with 180 tourists going to the Turkish coast. This year, his and four other agencies have joined forces to fill an equivalent flight.

“There is of course a worldwide economic crisis, but we are not seeing a similar falloff in flights to, say, Prague,” he said.

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul.

Israel diverts supply ship

The Israeli Navy on Thursday intercepted a ship delivering 60 tons of supplies from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip and said it was towing the vessel into an Israeli port, The Associated Press reported from Jerusalem.

The ship set sail from the Lebanese port of Tripoli on Tuesday in a bid to defy Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Reporters from Arab TV stations Al Jadeed and Al Jazeera who were on the Togolese-flagged vessel said the Israelis fired at the ship before boarding it.

Organizers said 18 people were on board. Among them was an 86-year-old Greek Catholic priest, Hillarion Capucci, who while serving as an archbishop in Jerusalem was convicted in 1974 by an Israeli court for using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to Palestinian militants. The Syrian-born Capucci was jailed but released three years later and deported.

The Israeli military said that those on the ship would be handed over to the Israeli police and that the aid would be transferred to Gaza by land.

Israel has kept Gaza’s cargo crossings closed since Hamas seized control of the area in 2007.

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