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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘MV Mavi Marmara’

Israeli, Turkish Officials Meet to Mend Broken Ties

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

After more than a year of silence, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold – a former Israeli ambassador – met Monday in Rome with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu.

The two men sat away from the glare of media cameras and quietly began to renew the contacts between Jerusalem and Ankara, along with other senior Israeli and Turkish officials. Gold, an appointee and longtime associate of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was tasked with exploring the potential for cooperation between Israel and Turkey.

The move comes in the wake of Turkey’s recent parliamentary polls, which left the AK Party led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the minority for the first time in a decade. This has opened the possibility that Turkey, a former ally, might consider renewing its diplomatic ties with the Jewish State.

Erdogan pulled Turkey’s ambassador from Israel and cancelled three joint military drills following clashes aboard a flotilla vessel owned by the Turkish IHH organization. The Mavi Marmara was participating in a six-vessel flotilla (three were Turkish-flagged) sent to deliberately – illegally — breach Israel’s maritime blockade around Gaza.

The terror activists on board the ship launched an attack on Israeli commandos who boarded to redirect the vessel to Ashdod port. Eight Turkish-born fighters and one American, all of whom were armed, died in the battle. The incident prompted venomous rhetoric from Erdogan, who immediately cut ties with Israel.

In a gesture of conciliation, Israel eventually apologized for operational errors that might have led to the deaths of the Turkish nationals and offered compensation to their families. Nevertheless, then-Prime Minister Erdogan was not appeased and refused to renew ties unless Israel also dropped its blockade of Gaza, a security measure that helps prevent terror groups in the enclave from importing weapons and other contraband from their generous Iranian benefactor.

Although Israel had discussed dropping the blockade, the escalation of rocket attacks against the south led to a counter terror war in Gaza last summer. This prompted Erdogan to rev up his offensive rhetoric anew against the State of Israel. Once again, the Turkish leader found a reason to sabotage renewal of ties, claiming the attack on Gaza by Israel proved Jerusalem “does not want normalization.”

Although trade has continued uninterrupted throughout, diplomatic communication has been maintained with Israel via the director of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Oddly, the stores in the Jewish State have been and still are filled to the brim with Turkish products, from housewares to clothing to food stuffs and more.

Even during Operation Protective Edge last summer, Israel allowed Turkish pilots to land and take off from Israeli airports in order to airlift medical patients from Gaza.

There has, however, been a complete halt to Israeli tourism to Turkey, a sector which once brought millions from Israel to the Turkish economy.

Within Turkey itself, the Israeli embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul both came under vicious attack by mobs last summer; the Jewish community also felt Islamist rage. Jews were told by some AK Party-linked columnists they should “pay” for the “crimes” of Israel in Gaza. They were egged on by Erdogan’s anti-Israel remarks.

Other Turkish citizens, appalled by the outpouring of hatred, denounced the rhetoric and called for a show of brotherhood with their Jewish neighbors. They reminded the public that Jews have contributed to Turkish society for more than two thousand years. Jews were found living in Anatolia, in fact, as far back as 2,400 years ago.

Compared to the many thousands of Jews who once graced the flagship nation of the Ottoman Empire, however, the current Jewish community in Turkey is very small and maintains a low profile due to fears of reprisal. Upon the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, there were 80,000 Jews living in Turkey: today there are only 17,300 out of a total population of 70 million.

Few are willing to publicly identify themselves as Jews; even fewer are Torah observant. Most have assimilated and do their best to blend completely into Turkish society. They are aided in this effort by the majority contention that in Islam a man may marry a Jewish woman. Those who are worried about their daughters marrying out of the faith or their descendants disappearing from the Judaic Tree of Life have made – or are making – plans to emigrate. Those who do not either remain in order to strengthen those who cannot leave, may no longer feel the issue is relevant, or have simply given up.

Yet it was the Ottomans under Sultan Orhan who gave permission in 1324 to Jews living in Bursa to build the Etz ha-Hayyim (Tree of Life) Synagogue, which remained in service until just 50 years ago. Western European Jews were invited by Muslim sultans to immigrate to the Empire twice, and once by Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati (1454) during the time of the Ottomans. Four cities in particular became centers of Sephardic Jewry during that time: Istanbul, Salonica, Tzefat (which later returned to Israel by way of the British Mandate) and Izmir (also known as Smyrna), where the Tu B’Shevat seder was developed in the 17th century.

According to the 2015 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Global 100 index of anti-Semitism, 69 percent of Turkish citizens hold some type of anti-Semitic belief. During Operation Protective Edge, there were 30,000 Turkish-language positive tweets about Hitler and Nazi atrocities against Jews. A Pew Research Center Poll found in November 2014 that 86 percent of Turkish citizens hold a negative view of Israel.

It is hard to be Jewish in today’s Turkey, where hatred of Israel, the Jewish State, has been publicly nurtured and encouraged from the very echelons of government. One questions whether renewal of ties between the two countries will come in time to reverse this terrible trend, or whether it is already too late.

Hamas Pushing Erdogan to Reignite Strife with Israel over Gaza Harbor

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

According to the Al Qassam website, Hamas MP Jamal Al-Khudari has said that the visit to Gaza by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be an opportunity to discuss with the Turks the project of upgrading the Gaza harbor. The article’s translation was provided by MEMRI.

Al-Khudari told Quds Press last week that Arab and Islamic parties had promised to upgrade the Gaza harbor, to enable it to work as an important import-export port for the coastal strip.

The 48,000 square meter Gaza harbor is 970 meters in depth and is currently only used by fishermen who are kept within six nautical miles off the coast by the Israel.

Following the June, 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, both Egypt and Israel decided to impose a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, on the grounds that Fatah had fled and was no longer providing security on the Arab side. Egypt was also concerned that a Hamas spillover would ignite unrest in its own cities.

The blockade has been kept more and less rigidly, depending on the severity of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. In May, 2010, the Israeli Navy seized a convoy of six ships known as the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla,” organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH). The convoy’s aim was to break through the blockade. Israeli naval commandos boarded the ships in international waters. On the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara, the main ship of the convoy, passengers attacked and captured three soldiers. After failing to disperse the attackers, soldiers resorted to live fire. Nine passengers were killed and dozens wounded. Nine soldiers were also injured, two of them seriously.

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology for the unfortunate event, its remnants are still hovering in the air between Turkey and Israel. Both countries, for a variety of reasons, are eager to restore normalcy: the Turks because Israeli tourism in the past injected a great deal of cash into their economy; the Israelis because they desire a safe haven for mid-way landing should they decide to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

But if Hamas is able to drag Turkey into making good on its promise, and becoming a partner in the project, it would pose a difficult challenge to Israel. Being able to control the traffic of goods into Gaza has enabled Israel to manage a rather successful policy of carrots and sticks with Hamas. Without recognizing the Hamas government officially, Israel has been able to open its border crossings with Gaza for incoming goods when Hamas controlled its urge to shoot rockets into Israeli civilian centers, and close the same crossings when the terrorist organization could no longer curb its murderous urges.

This is precisely why Hamas MP Khudari, who is the head of the committee against the siege, emphasized that his committee wants Turkey to remain a full partner in the operation of Gaza harbor as a commercial port.

He stressed his plan that Turkey would supervise the harbor, that and all import and export traffic would be handled via a Turkish port, which would mean an end to the sea blockade on the Strip. Goods for Gaza will no longer land in Ashdod, Israel, first and then be shipped a few miles by truck into Gaza. They would instead be processed someplace in southern Turkey, and then ship directly to Gaza harbor.

Khudari said that his committee is hoping that such a proposal would end Israel’s excuses for refusing to let goods in and out of Gaza through its harbor over security fears.

Of course, if you can’t count on the Turks telling you there’s nothing illegal in those shioments, who can you count on?

MP Khudari said that the project would go into effect as soon as it was approved, adding that it would be tabled with Erdogan on his visit to Gaza.

Erdogan announced his intention to visit Gaza in May after a visit to the USA in mid May.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hamas-pushing-erdogan-to-reignite-strife-with-israel-over-gaza-harbor/2013/04/28/

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