Last updated: 14 September, 2011

Israel hopes common sense will prevail in Turkey row

Israel’s public diplomacy minister said on Wednesday that he hoped “common sense would prevail” in former friend and ally Turkey in the diplomatic crisis the two governments are now embroiled in.

“Despite the attempts on the Turkish side to provoke an escalation, we are acting with restraint,” Yuli Edelstein told public radio. “We are not pouring oil on the fire, in the hope that common sense will prevail.”

Israel and Turkey have been locked in a bitter dispute since May 2010 when Israeli naval commandos stormed a convoy of six ships trying to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, killing nine people.

Earlier this month Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and axed military ties and defence trade.

Relations plummeted still further last week when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to send warships to escort any Turkish vessels trying to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon too urged restraint on Wednesday.

“It is better that we keep our mouths shut and not respond to inflammatory talk,” he told public radio.

In a reference to Turkey’s imperial past, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo and consul in Ankara said that Erdogan saw himself as “the new sultan of the Middle East, which he wants to lead by political means.”

But the former diplomat said that the Turkish leader could come up against resentment in the Arab world, which non-Arab Turkey once ruled.

“The countries of the region, including the generals who rule Egypt, but also Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, do not favour Turkish hegemony, ” Elie Shaked told army radio.

He added that he did not foresee a war between Israel and Turkey, both allies of the United States which has urged them to “refrain from provocative action.”

Israel’s inner forum of senior ministers was to meet later Wednesday to discuss the crisis as urged earlier this week by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Israeli media reported.

Erdogan again blasted Israel in Egypt on Tuesday as he kicked off a regional tour aimed at bolstering Ankara’s ties with the new governments brought to power by the so-called Arab Spring.

He told an Arab League meeting that recognition of a Palestinian state was an “obligation,” as the Palestinians prepare to submit a formal request to become the 194th member of the United Nations next week, despite vocal US and Israeli opposition.

Erdogan reiterated that strained ties with Israel would not improve unless the Jewish state apologised for the convoy incident.

“It is out of the question for Turkey to normalise ties with Israel” unless it apologises for last year’s deadly flotilla raid, pays compensation and lifts its blockade on Gaza, he said.

“Israel sees itself as above the law,” he said, accusing the Jewish state of “turning a deaf ear” to Turkey’s demands.