Israel says will limit Turkish trade with Palestinians, seek sanctions against Ankara

Reacting to Erdogan’s decision to halt all trade, Jerusalem plans to punish country for breaching trade agreements; FM: ‘Erdogan will come to regret this error’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Israel on Friday said it would limit Turkish trade with the Palestinian Authority and seek sanctions against Ankara in response to Turkey’s decision to halt all trade with Israel.

The announcement came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the move was designed to force Israel to agree to ceasefire in Gaza, where it has been fighting Hamas since the terror group’s October 7 onslaught.

“The dictator Erdogan who wants to be sultan is working in the service of Hamas, breaching agreements and seeking to harm Israel, but is in fact harming Palestinians he purports to want to help,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in declaring the steps Israel was taking.

“Whoever takes unilateral steps against Israel’s economy with receive a painful and appropriate response. Israel’s economy is strong and Turkey’s economy will be harmed far more… Erdogan will come to regret this error.”

Turkey’s decision, announced on Thursday, was the latest blow to deteriorating relations between the two countries.

Friday’s Foreign Ministry statement said Israel would take several steps in response to Ankara’s action, including acting to limit all trade between Turkey and the Palestinian Authority (noting Turkish products amount to 18 percent of PA imports); and petitioning international financial forums for sanctions against Turkey over its violation of trade deals with Israel.

In announcing the move, Turkey had said it would coordinate with Palestinian authorities to ensure they are not affected by the suspension of imports and exports.

File: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference in Ankara, on April 24, 2024. (Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Economy Minister Nir Barkat submitted a complaint to OECD chief Mathias Cormann Friday over Turkey’s move.

In a meeting with the OECD chief, Barkat charged that Erdogan was an “antisemitic dictator” and that the decision “blatantly violates maritime trade laws and harms the continuity of global supply.

“We expect the OECD to take action against Turkey over Erdogan’s delusional decision that harms the entire European economy,” Barkat said.

Internally, Jerusalem said it will create a “bank” of alternatives to the Turkish markets to fill the gap the move creates in the Israeli economy. In addition, it will act to assist Israeli businesses harmed by the move.

Erdogan told a group of businessmen in Istanbul Friday: “We have taken some measures to force Israel to agree to a ceasefire and increase the amount of humanitarian aid to enter” Gaza.

“We will oversee the consequences of this step we have taken in coordination and consultation with our business world.”

Illustrative: An anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protest rally in Istanbul, Turkey, February 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Previously in April, Turkey announced it was restricting exports to Israel, covering 54 products from iron and steel to jet fuel.

“We do not run after hostility or conflict in our region,” said Erdogan. “We do not want to see conflict, blood or tears in our geography.

“We know now that we did the right thing.”

The two countries had a trade volume of $6.8 billion in 2023.

Turkey has been one of the harshest critics of Israel during the war against Hamas, with Erdogan branding Israel a “terrorist state” and repeatedly expressing backing for the Palestinian terror group.

Erdogan’s salvos against Israel include allegations it is committing “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza. He has defended Hamas, which he has long supported, as “a liberation group.”

Israel and Turkey have free trade agreements from the mid-1990s that are now being violated.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, April 20, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

The Turkish leader repeatedly attacked Israel on the campaign trail ahead of local elections held on March 31.

His party nevertheless suffered a significant defeat, losing control of many cities, especially to the Islam-based Yeniden Refah (New Welfare) Party.

The party, which won seats in the Turkish parliament last year after allying with Erdogan’s AKP, fielded its own candidates in the March elections, with its leader Fatih Erbakan attacking Erdogan for maintaining Turkish trade with Israel despite the war in Gaza.

“The result of this election was decided by the behavior of those who continued to trade freely with Israel and the Zionist murderers,” Erbakan said on election night.

Turkey and Israel renewed full diplomatic ties in 2022 by reappointing ambassadors after years of tensions, but relations have again cratered due to the war.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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