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Israel:Turkey Wants Confrontation, Is Firing Blanks

Turkey gives Israeli diplomats 48 hours to leave; Jerusalem says Ankara wants a confrontation, but has a 'pistol firing blanks.'
By Gavriel Queenann, Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/5/2011, 9:23 PM

On Monday Ankara gave all Israeli diplomatic staff above the second secretary level 48 hours to leave Turkey.

"We can obviously expect a difficult period vis-à-vis Turkey, yet this is something that was taken into account," one official said.

Israeli diplomats were briefed on a series of 'sanctions' Ankara intended to impose on Jerusalem before being ordered to leave the country by Wednesday.

Second secretary is the lowest rank in the Foreign Ministry. While all Israeli diplomats above that rank were expected to leave Turkey by Wednesday, diplomats at second secretary level, including the spokesman of the Israeli Embassy in Turkey, were expected to remain in their posts, a Foreign Ministry official said.

In addition to expelling Israel's senior diplomats, Ankara plans file suit against the Israeli soldiers and officials involved in the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, suspend military agreements between the two countries, support the families of victims, and "take measures to ensure freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean."

Also, Turkey said it will raise the issue of the Gaza blockade with the International Criminal Court at The Hague. 

The decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel was taken after Jerusalem's refusal to apologize for a May 2010 IDF naval commando raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel in Israel's territorial waters that ignored orders to change course and head for Ashdod port.

But Israeli officials say Turkey’s threat to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague following Friday’s release of the Palmer Report is a “pistol firing blanks,” pointing out that the court only adjudicates issues brought to it by two disputing states -- or referred to it for an advisory decision from the United Nations.

Israel won’t agree to go to the court, the official said, and the UN will be hard-pressed to ask for an advisory opinion after a UN body, the Palmer Commission, found the blockade of Gaza was "legal and appropriate," as was Israel’s interception of vessels trying to breach it.

Officials in Jerusalem also said they were not surprised by reports that Israeli passengers were held up at the Istanbul airport Monday, charging that Ankara is seeking to provoke an open confrontation with Israel.

"The Turks are trying to forcefully lead us into an open confrontation and street fights in the international arena, but we shall not give them this pleasure," a diplomatic source said. Dozens of Israeli passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were held for 90 minutes by local police after their passports were taken away from them.  

Islamic theologian and philosopher Adnan Oktar also told Arutz Sheva in an interview Monday evening via the Internet that in his opinion, the current friction between Turkey and Israel is only a temporary state of affairs.

“We have a very old friendship dating back to the times of our Prophet, that friendship is a tradition remaining from the Ottoman times as well,” he wrote in an email. “But the disputes we now have are transient."

The Istanbul-based author has hosted numerous interfaith delegations from Israel, most recently one last year that included MK Ayoub Kara as well as a respected Orthodox rabbi.

“The rocket shield that is about to be built in Turkey is actually being built to protect Israel,” Oktar contended in his email to Arutz Sheva. “There is no threat against Turkey. So everyone should know that Turkey is not a threat for Israel.”