Tensions between Israel and Turkey again escalated at the weekend after Turkey’s National Security Council issued a document declaring Israel a “central threat” to Turkish national interests and security.
It was the first time Israel had ever been added to the Turkish list of central threats. Traditionally, Israel and Turkey enjoy very warm relations.
But with the election of a more Islamist government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003, relations have begun to sour.
Following the latest insult, Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov urged Israelis to stop traveling to Turkey for the time being.
“From a tourism perspective, we must completely boycott Turkey and maintain national respect, in view of the recent decision,” Misezhnikov said ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. “The less we go to Turkey, the greater the chance that they get the hint.”
Israeli visitors make up a disproportionate amount of Turkey’s annual tourism.
Relations between Israel and Turkey began to really go downhill in January 2009, when Ankara took a leading role in criticizing Israel’s military invasion of the Gaza Strip to bring a halt to incessant Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel.
Erdogan openly accused Israel of war crimes, and verbally assaulted Israeli President Shimon Peres when the two shared a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland shortly after the Gaza war.
The interception of a Turkish-sponsored “humanitarian aid” flotilla headed to Gaza in May of this year brought relations to yet another new low point. Nine Turkish nationals were killed after attacking Israeli troops who boarded the flotilla’s largest ship.
There were no injuries on the flotilla’s other ships, but aboard the Mavi Marmara, video footage since posted on the Internet shows members of the Turkish IHH terrorist movement preparing for the Israeli and brutally lynching them as they descended on the ship one by one.
Despite the circumstances surrounding the Mavi Marmara deaths, Erdogan and his government have accused Israel of piracy and war crimes.