Tensions escalate between Israel and Turkey

Thursday, October 15, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Tension between Israel and Turkey escalated on Wednesday after a Turkish mini-series depicting Israeli soldiers brutally executing Palestinian civilians was aired on state-run television.

Traditional regional allies and trade partners, relations between Israel and Turkey began to chill several years ago when the latter elected a more Islamic government. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has since been regularly antagonistic toward Israel, taking advantage of every opportunity to cozy up to other regional Muslim powers by joining their bashing of the Jewish state.

The trouble between the two countries ramped up last week when Turkey suddenly barred Israel from a NATO military exercise that had been planned months in advance. The exercise was eventually called off because the US said it would not participate if Israel was left out. Turkish officials said their decision was based on what they called Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians during the recent Gaza war in January.

Erdogan told the Dubai-based news network al-Arabiya that his people increasingly reject cooperation with Israel, and that he must honor and demonstrate the will of his people.

As if to drive that point home, Turkey's state-run television station TRT1 on Tuesday evening broadcast the first episode in a new mini-series looking at the life of a Palestinian family in the so-called "West Bank." During the episode, Israeli soldiers repeatedly murder Palestinian children in cold blood, and in one scene line up about 10 innocent Palestinian civilians and mow them down with machine-gun fire.

Israel tried to brush off the cancellation of the military exercise and calm the media storm that followed that decision, but such an inflammatory depiction of Israel and Israeli soldiers on government-controlled TV was a step too far. Israel's Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Turkish ambassador to lodge an official complaint over the broadcast.

Some Turkish officials alternatively said that the cancellation of the military exercise with Israel was the result of Israel's tardiness in delivering 10 unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to the Turkish military. A Turkish officer told local newspaper Zaman that Turkey will impose a heavy fine on Israel if the UAVs are not delivered by the end of the year.

Further concerning Israelis is the fact that in conjunction with the above provocations, Turkey has been warming up to neighboring Syria, one of Israel's most hostile enemies in the region.

Turkey and Syria have traditionally been at odds, but Damascus revealed that earlier this year the two countries held a joint military exercise. After the cancellation of the NATO exercise that Israel was to take part in, Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib told reporters in Turkey that the two Muslim nations will hold an even bigger military exercise in the near future.

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