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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Foreign Ministry has decided to send Consular Division head Rina Djerassi to Istanbul on Monday to augment efforts to secure the release of the Israeli couple Mordy and Natali Oaknin, tourists who were arrested by Turkish authorities and are possibly facing espionage charges after taking a picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s residence.

The two, who were arrested a week ago after taking photos of Erdogan’s residence from the Çamlıca Tower in Istanbul, are in Turkish custody and their remand was extended over the weekend by 20 days.


The ministry said in a statement that “efforts to release the two are ongoing at all levels.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated Sunday that the two Israelis “are two innocent civilians who have been mistakenly caught up in a complex situation.”

Israel is “doing everything to resolve the issue. I asked that the family stay strong, despite the great difficulty. We are with you. Beyond this, it would not be proper to expand at the moment.”

Israel has not out ruled at this stage the possibility that the arrest has a political background to it, with Turkey trying to leverage the incident for its diplomatic purposes. However, as the event continues, its potential to become a crisis grows.

Jerusalem estimates that the Turks are taking advantage of the couple, innocent tourists, and Ankara knows this, but wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

The relations between Israel and Turkey have been sour for years as Erdogan and his Islamist ruling party have drawn the country toward the Muslim Brotherhood and have espoused anti-Israel Islamic ideas, and even anti-Semitic notions.

Turkey is facing a complex financial situation in the country, as well as tense relations with the US and Europe. This crisis may be an attempt by Erdogan to improve his situation through pressure and negotiations.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.