Despite mutual recall of ambassadors and harsh recriminations, Israel and Turkey will weather the current diplomatic crisis, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Thursday.
“The decision reached by the Foreign Ministry after much deliberation — and of course Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was part of it — is that we do not intend to cut ties with Turkey,” Hotovely told public broadcaster Kan.
“Turkey is an important state in the region; and even though its leader made very grave remarks against Israel’s leadership and its actions, I think we repaid him in kind,” she noted. “We said that a dictator like him who spills blood and behaves in such a cruel manner cannot lecture us.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan loosed a barrage of accusations against Israel over the Gaza bloodshed, calling it a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.”
Netanyahu shot back at Erdogan, saying that he “is among Hamas’s biggest supporters; and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us.”
Hotovely explained that the hostile rhetoric was essentially beside the point.
“When we have relations with Turkey, it’s not out of fondness and friendship,” Hotovely explained. “It’s about very important interests in the region. Turkey is a key state, all our aerial routes go through it, there are very deep trade relations, totaling 5 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) per year.”
The safety and stability of the large Jewish community in Turkey was also given as a reason to maintain relations, despite the unpleasantness.
Hotovely said she anticipated that the expelled ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Navh, will be able to return to Ankara, adding that it was also in Turkey’s interest for all the diplomats on both sides to return to their offices.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin took a somewhat less pragmatic view. While he agreed that trade relations should not be severed, he nevertheless called on Israelis to refrain from traveling to Turkey and spending their tourist dollars in places friendlier to Israel.
“I recommend not to travel to Turkey,” he told Ynet. “As long as this is the treatment from the Turks, there is no reason for us to go there.”
“Unfortunately, Turkey has a leader who time after time exploits the Israeli issue to create headlines and try to garner support ahead of elections,” Levin charged.
Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri agreed that ties shouldn’t be cut, but said that “for years we have noticed that Erdogan is heading toward insane extremism.”
Earlier on Thursday, Science Minister Ofir Akunis said Israel needs to “isolate Turkey in the international arena and expose Erdogan’s anti-Semitic face.”
Akunis added that the Turkish president was “a neo-fascist who hates Israel and has always reviled it.”
He said Israel should recognize the Armenian genocide and “go up five notches in our international activity against Erdogan and against Turkey.”