About 40 Israeli passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were held for several hours by local police on Monday after their passports had been taken away from them. The passengers said that the Turkish police officers were disrespectful, claiming that such an incident was unprecedented.
“They asked us why we came here, opened our bags, checked how much money we have and what we have on our laptops,” he added.
Authorities in Jerusalem estimate that the detention of the Israeli passengers came in response to a recent incident during which Turkish citizens were detained for questioning by border police at Ben Gurion Airport.
Foreign Ministry officials said that no directive was issued regarding a change in the policy that concerns the reception of Israelis, and that there was no intention to single out Israelis that arrive in Turkey. “It was a mid-rank initiative that apparently came in response to the incident at Ben Gurion Airport,” they said.
This treatment is likely to backfire on the Turks themselves:
Hayuta Leibovitz, another passenger on the flight, said, “I really want to go home but I am already here and I have to work. I will return to Israel on Thursday and then I will think about what’s next. Will it be the last time that we come here? If that’s the situation, we will go to places where we are wanted. Even if my income is generated here and all my production is done in Istanbul, if they don’t me here, I’ll leave.”
Regarding that claim quoted above that Turkish passengers were mistreated at Ben Gurion airport, Israel’s airport chief angrily stated that Turkey is twisting reality:
Turkish officials are twisting reality by claiming that the detention of Israeli passengers at Istanbul airport is related to the mistreatment of Turkish passengers at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s Airport Authority director general said Monday evening.
“The attempt to tie security at Ben-Gurion Airport to the Israel-Turkey relationship does not reflect reality,” Kobi Mor said.
“The Airport Authority strongly rejects the attempts to tie security procedures undergone by the passengers at Ben Gurion Airport to the relationship between the two states,” he said. “Security forces are doing their job day and night in safeguarding the planes and passengers, and there is no room for cynically exploiting their work.”
“The fact that security officers cannot publicly respond to the hints and accusations leads to the distortion of reality,” Mor charged. “Security officials at Ben-Gurion Airport operate in line with the instructiond of professional authorities and will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of passengers at the airport.”
Later in the day, Turkey announced that it has given Israeli diplomats 2 days to leave the country. This appears to be beyond the initial expulsion of diplomats from yesterday.
Turkey on Monday informed Israel’s top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday.
Ella Ofek, the deputy to the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and the person currently in charge of the Israeli embassy in Ankara, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday. Ofek was informed that all Israeli diplomats ranked above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attaché, must depart Turkey by Wednesday.
The only Israeli diplomats permitted to remain include embassy spokesman Nizar Amir and personnel who provide consular services.
We can only speculate what has gotten into Turkey’s leaders. As various commenters postulated in my previous post, it could be Turkey’s wish to be a leader amongst the Arab nations, to have influence on Syria, anger at the EU for rejecting Turkey’s bid to join the Union, or just more intense Muslim religious feeling in the present leadership.
But whichever reason or reasons motivate Turkey’s behaviour, it is certainly bringing the Eastern Mediterranean to a boil, as this opinion piece in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily describes.
With the release of the U.N.’s Palmer Report, Turkey has been effervescing like sour vinegar or fuming like an angry bull. Israel meanwhile shyly accepted – with some reservations – the report on its deadly raid more than a year ago in international waters of the Mediterranean off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The eastern Mediterranean has turned into a frying pan…