Israel's popular deputy FM sacked for sake of ties with Turkey?

Monday, December 10, 2012 |  Israel Today Staff

Israelis and foreign supporters of Israel alike were shocked last week when popular Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was placed in an unrealistic spot on his Israel Beiteinu's Knesset list ahead of upcoming general elections.

The decision by party leader Avigdor Lieberman to place Ayalon so low on the list meant the latter would not be a member of the next Knesset.

Over the past several years, Ayalon had gained widespread respect for his ability to eloquently and effectively defend Israel in the public arena. His English-language YouTube videos were particularly well done, and found extensive use by Israel's supporters around the world.

It was originally assumed that Ayalon had been bumped because Lieberman viewed him as dangerous competition for the party leadership. Despite occupying the position of foreign minister, Lieberman himself is not all that eloquent, and has managed to attract more criticism than respect.

But now it seems Ayalon's political misfortune might be the result of Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanting to get back in Turkey's good graces.

It is no secret that relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained in recent years. Seeking to establish itself as a leader in the Muslim world, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the charge against the Jewish state in a number of international crises.

Amidst those strained relations, Ayalon in 2010 sought to make a point by sitting the Turkish ambassador on a lower couch during a meeting between the two men. Additionally, no Turkish flag was displayed in the room during the meeting, which Ayalon had called to rebuke the ambassador over an anti-Semitic series that had been broadcast on prime-time Turkish television.

Ayalon ensured that the meeting was photographed and widely publicized. Turkey viewed the gesture as an insult to its pride.

According to the Russian media outlet Vestnik Kavkaza, Israel and Turkey had recently been exploring ways to rehabilitate relations between the two nations, and Ayalon's sacking was meant as a clear message that Jerusalem is serious about cozying back up to Ankara.

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