Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to adopt a series of reciprocal measures in response to Turkey’s latest anti-Israeli moves.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials convened Thursday to prepare for a meeting on Saturday with Lieberman dedicated to formulating a response to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent threats and his decision to downgrade Ankara’s diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.
Following Thursday’s meeting, officials said in their estimation Turkey is not, as it claims, interested in an Israeli apology and is instead exploiting the dispute with Jerusalem to increase Ankara’s stature in the Muslim world.
Lieberman, officials say, decided there was no point in seeking creative formulas for apologizing and chose, instead, to protect Israel's dignity with a muscular response.
But whereas Turkish moves appear to telegraph a direct, potentially military confrontation, Leiberman's moves are aimed at dealing a blow to Turkey's international standing.
In that vein the Foreign Ministry has decided to proceed with the formulation of a diplomatic and security “toolbox” to be used against the Turks. The first move would be to issue a travel warning urging all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to Turkey, even for connecting flights.
Another move would be cooperation with Turkey’s historic rivals, the Armenians. During Lieberman’s upcoming visit to the United States later this month he is expected to meet with leaders of the Armenian lobby and propose anti-Turkish cooperation in Congress.
The implication of this move could be Israeli recognition of, and assistance in promoting international recognition for, the Armenian genocide. A measure certain to incense Ankara who fears broad recognition would hurt its global stature. Israel may also choose to back Armenia in its dispute vis-à-vis Turkey over control of Mount Ararat.
Lieberman is also reportedly planning to set meetings with the heads of Kurdish rebel group PKK in Europe in order to “cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area.”
In these meetings, the Kurds are likely to ask Israel for military aid in the form of training and arms supplies, a move that would mean backing a foreign insurgency and constitute a major anti-Turkish position should it materialize.
However, violent clashes between Turkey and the Kurds are only one avenue of advancing the narrative Ankara is violating human rights. Another tactic vis-à-vis Erdogan is a diplomatic campaign where Israeli missions worldwide will be instructed to join the fight and report Turkish oppression of minorities.
The tough response formulated by Lieberman stems, among other things, from the foreign minister’s desire to make it clear to Erdogan that his anti-Israeli moves are not a “one-way street.”
Officials in Jerusalem also noted that Turkey’s international forecast at this time is not promising, adding that Ankara is embroiled in tensions with NATO and Greece, while Erdogan’s relations with Syria and Iran are also not favorable.
“We’ll exact a price from Erdogan that will prove to him that messing with Israel doesn’t pay off,” Lieberman said. “Turkey must treat us with respect and common decency.”