Turkey torpedoes Israeli participation in NATO exercise, NATO reconsiders, Turkey bashes Israel

Israel Navy vessel

Israel Navy vessel

Turkey continues to carry a grudge against Israel ever since the flotilla fiasco, and has vetoed Israeli participation in a NATO naval exercise.

Turkey has torpedoed an Israeli plan to contribute an Israel Navy missile ship to a NATO mission in the Mediterranean Sea, in what would have been the first time Israel actively participated in one of the Western military alliance’s operations.

Diplomatic and defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Turkey had decided to prevent Israeli participation in the long-term operation – called Active Endeavor – following the Israel Navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 in which nine Turkish nationals were killed.

Diplomatic officials said that ever since its success, Turkey had been seeking to scuttle greater Israeli participation in the alliance.

NATO launched Operation Active Endeavor in the wake of 9/11 and has succeeded in bringing together a number of countries to patrol the Mediterranean and share information concerning terrorism and suspicious ships.

In 2008, Israel sent a navy officer to sit at the operation’s headquarters in Naples and in late 2009, Defense Minister Ehud Barak submitted an official request to NATO to contribute a missile ship to the mission. In 2010, Israel and NATO signed an agreement that was supposed to pave the way for the ship’s participation.

“Israel’s navy anyhow patrols the Mediterranean and since we were interested in upgrading our ties with NATO, it made sense to offer to actively participate in the operation,” a senior government official said. “The Turks, though, torpedoed the move and refused to allow one of our ships to join.”

It’s not all bad news however.

While Turkey succeeded in thwarting the navy’s participation in Active Endeavor, it has, however, failed to prevent Israel from upgrading its ties with NATO. Defense officials said this week that the sides were on the verge of signing a new cooperation agreement that would lead to a significant upgrade in relations.

Israel is also considering a request by NATO to open an office at its headquarters in Brussels. Defense officials said that the offer was still open and that it was being “positively considered” by the government.

It also appears that Israel’s un-invitation is being reconsidered by NATO.

NATO said Friday it is considering an Israeli offer to contribute a warship to the alliance’s naval patrol in the Mediterranean, despite Turkey’s opposition.

Israel is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, a NATO outreach program with seven friendly nations bordering on that waterway. Romero said the alliance is prepared to enhance practical cooperation with all partner nations in the region, including Israel.

Some NATO governments have opposed past attempts to forge closer cooperation with Israel, saying that could hurt the alliance’s relations with other Muslim states, including Afghanistan, which remains NATO’s top operational priority.

Further fallout from Israel’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey has hit the Israeli defence firm Elbit.

Elbit Systems announced Sunday that it stands to lose close to $65 million from its yearly profits for 2011 due to the Defense Ministry’s decision in December to stop the delivery of sophisticated intelligence systems to the Turkish Air Force.

According to Elbit’s announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, it was still in talks with Defense Ministry director-general Udi Shani about receiving compensation for the ministry’s decision to nix the deal just weeks before planned delivery.

In December, defense officials said that although Israel was working to improve ties with Ankara, the ministry “responsible for every product that receives an export license” and that it could not currently permit the delivery of the intelligence- gathering systems to Turkey.

“This has to do strictly with this system and should not impact the overall ties between the countries,” an official said.

The $140 million deal, signed in 2009, was for the sale of the advanced infrared Lorop camera and associated equipment. Developed by Elbit subsidiary El-Op, the camera is installed in a pod which can be carried on combat aircraft. The systems were supposed to be delivered to Turkey in the coming months.

And to cap it all off, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had the temerity to lash out at Israel in the US for not surrendering quickly enough to the Palestinians.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister lashed out at Israel yesterday over its uncompromising stance on core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Enough is enough. The longer the Palestinian-Israeli issue remained unresolved, the greater the price peoples of the region, including Turkey, pay. Israelis should decide on what they want,” Ahmet Davutoğlu told a meeting of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

He does not make clear what price Turkey is paying for Israel not giving up precious land for nothing to the Palestinians or how Turkey is involved at all.

Davutoğlu said Israel had failed to convey any positive messages either to the United States or to the region, but continued to build new settlements and make provocative statements.

As Davutoglu well knows, Israel has not built one new settlement for years. As for provocative statements – kettles, pots and black come to mind.

“The existing status quo cannot exist anymore. Palestinians deserve their own state. Let me say put it frankly: The U.S. veto on the recognition of Palestine was wrong as was the Russian veto on Syria,” he said, adding that Turkey would continue to support efforts for Palestine’s recognition.

This statement is simply outrageous. How does he dare compare a refusal to recognize a non-existent state with a refusal to condemn mass slaughter of civilians?

“Israel has to come to the table without putting forward any preconditions, like building new settlements. They have to decide whether they want a solution based on one state or two states. So we can learn who wants peace and who doesn’t,” Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu’s chutzpah is quite breathtaking. Israel has not put forward any preconditions to renewing talks except for one – that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist. Pretty basic in my humble opinion.

Until Davutoglu, Erdogan and the rest of Turkey’s leaders stop their spiteful statements and vengeful actions against Israel, I doubt there will be any more intelligence or other military cooperation between the two countries.  It is both pathetic and a crying shame that Turkey’s leaders have reduced the relations with Israel to playground bullying when there there are so many serious crises in our region.

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