Olympic dreams dashed as Israeli authorities ban wrestling team from Turkey

The Israeli Security Agency said that risk of travelling to Istanbul was too high


2KDD07H Melkamu Fetene (ISR) GR 60kg exultation during the Wrestling U20 European Championships on June 29, 2022 at the Matteo Pellicone in Rome, Italy (Photo by Luigi Mariani/LiveMedia/NurPhoto)

The increasingly frosty relations between Turkey and Israel has put an end to the Israeli wrestling team's dream of competing in the Paris Olympics this summer.

The Israel Security Agency informed the athletes that they are not allowed to fly to Istanbul for a May 9-13 Olympics qualifying event which represents the final opportunity for hopefuls to qualify for the games in the French capital.

The five Israeli athletes who were to have participated in the competition received the news on Friday.

"I'm disappointed, but I knew that this was going to be the decision," said wrestler Ilana Kartish, who represented Israel at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

"I hope that the Israeli association and the Olympic committee will demand from the world association to consider us and give us a free ticket to the games; the athletes should not be harmed by the situation," she added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken an extreme anti-Israel position since the Hamas-led massacre of Oct. 7 and ensuing war in Gaza, openly supporting the terrorist group.

Israel’s National Security Council last month issued a travel warning for Turkey, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt as destinations that “should be avoided at the current time."

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Erdogan last week of acting like a “dictator” by blocking the country’s ports to Israeli imports and exports as part of a trade war.

“This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen, and ignoring international trade agreements,” tweeted Katz.

The Israeli foreign minister said he had instructed his office to devise alternative trade routes that bypass Turkey while focusing on boosting local production and imports from other international partners.

Also last week, Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party took a thumping in local elections on March 31, decried the response to pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas protests currently taking place on U.S. college campuses under the guise of being against Jerusalem’s conduct during the war against Hamas.

Erdogan alleged that “conscientious students and academics, including anti-Zionist Jews” were facing “violence, cruelty, suffering and even torture” from authorities for opposing Israeli actions. He claimed some were being “sacked and lynched” for supporting the Palestinians.

“The limits of Western democracy are drawn by Israel’s interests,” the Turkish leader added, accusing Western nations of labeling any criticism of Israel as “anti-democratic” and “antisemitic.”

Katz severely criticized Ankara toward the end of April for inviting Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, to stay in the country.

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