Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is visiting Turkey to ratify agreements that would scrap visa requirements and strengthen defense cooperation as Ankara tightens its friendship with Israel’s three declared enemies to the north. Turkey and Lebanon also are signing military agreements for training, weapons and exchanging expertise.
Turkey's continuing warming of relations with Iran, Syria and Lebanon comes as leading Israeli media have criticized Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon for disparaging the Turkish ambassador to Israel. Ayalon voiced anger at the envoy on Monday over a Turkish soap opera that spread a blood libel against Israel by depicting Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) agents as kidnappers of babies.
Foreign Ministry bureaucrats suggested that Ayalon and Minister Avigdor Lieberman are trying to create a crisis in order to torpedo a planned visit by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Turkey.
Ankara used to be considered a close friend of Israel, an image that officials of the Labor party, headed by Barak, are trying to maintain. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a veteran Labor politician, said last month that there is no diplomatic crisis between the two countries despite harsh statements against Israel by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers.
Erdogan this week castigated Israel for bombing Gaza terrorists, allegedly without provocation, and accused Israel of threatening stability in the world because of its assumed nuclear capability. He said in Lebanon, "Is the Israeli government in favor of peace or not? Gaza was bombed again yesterday. Why?” Although Gaza terrorists have escalated rocket fire on Israel almost every day the past week, Erdogan stated, “There were no rocket attacks” when the IDF retaliated.
At a joint press conference with Erdogan, Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri declared that Israel is an enemy of Lebanon.
Turkey’s closer military ties with Lebanon follow by two months defense pacts signed with Syria and Iran. Erdogan last October stated that cooperation with the Syria and Iran is important for peace in the Middle East.
During a visit by Erdogan to Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the Turkish Prime Minister for his “clear stance against the Zionist regime.” Turkey also has signed military pacts with Syria and held a joint military drill with its army shortly after canceling the annual military exercise in which Israel participated.