Turkey-Israel ties take another hit

By Sami Kohen and Anshel Pfeffer, October 22, 2009
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Tension between Israel and Turkey has risen further after a state-owned Turkish television channel broadcast a drama depicting Israeli soldiers as murderers and Israeli tourists vowed to boycott the country.

Last week, Israel reacted furiously after Turkey excluded Israel from a joint air force drill with the US and Nato.

Now, a new series broadcast on the TRT channel, Separation, included scenes of Israeli soldiers gunning down Palestinian civilians, including children, during Operation Cast Lead.

The Israeli ambassador in Ankara, Gabby Levy, protested strongly to the Turkish foreign ministry, while a spokesperson for the Jewish community council in Istanbul expressed concern that it would fuel local antisemitism.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the series was produced by a private company and that the government had no authority to stop it being shown. However, TRT said this week that it would delete anti-Israeli scenes in upcoming episodes and focus on a storyline about a love affair in Gaza.

Meanwhile, a number of major Israeli trade unions have decided that they will not be sending their members for holidays in Turkey this year. Although Israelis only make up two or three percent of Turkey’s tourists, several resorts rely on them almost wholly.

Turkish PM Racep Tayyep Erdogan continued to fan the flames, calling on Israel on Monday to open up the crossings to the Gaza Strip and saying that it seemed that Israel was committing crimes against humanity in Gaza.

But in what was seen as an attempt to defuse the tension, Turkey announced it would be sending a new ambassador to Israel in a few weeks and deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that “relations between Israel and Turkey have always been strong and we are certain that they will remain strong”.

The Israel Water Authority also confirmed that it had begun talks with Turkish companies on the possibility of importing water from Turkey.

    Last updated: 6:03pm, October 22 2009