Israelis must stop deluding themselves about Turkey’s willingness to improve relations with Israel, former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said late Saturday, slamming Ankara for its latest claims against Jerusalem amid another marked deterioration in relations between the two countries.
Responding to Turkey’s accusation that Israel was behind a “media campaign” against Ankara over the exposure of an Israeli spy ring in Iran, as well as past accusations, Liberman said the claims were “baseless” and served as proof that Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would never warm to Israel, despite the formal apology issued to Erdogan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March over the 2010 Mavi Marmara affair.
“My opposition to apologizing to Turkey is nothing new. I expressed it clearly before and after the fact,” Liberman said. “I thought, and explained, that it would not bring about improved relations between the two countries, but would only hurt Israel’s standing in the region and play into the hands of extremists in the Middle East — among them Turkey under the Islamist extremist Erdogan.”
He added that he was not surprised by Ankara’s latest accusation. Comparing it to past accusations that Israel had stood behind the Taksim Square protests and the Egyptian coup that led to Mohammed Morsi’s ouster, Liberman said it showed Erdogan’s Turkey had no interest in improving its relationship with Israel.
“Therefore, I hope we all stop deluding ourselves and understand the reality in which we live,” Liberman said.
The Yisrael Beytenu leader was responding to Ankara’s claim that Israel was behind a Washington Post report Thursday which claimed that the Turkish government in early 2012 deliberately blew the cover of up to 10 Iranian intelligence assets who had secretly been meeting with Mossad handlers in Turkey. The report suggested that the head of Turkey’s Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) intelligence service, Hakan Fidan, was responsible for the deliberate exposure to the Iranians of the Mossad assets. Israel did not deny the Washington Post report, and former Mossad chief Danny Yaton said that if it were true, no Western intelligence service would be able to cooperate in the future with Turkish intelligence.
“We see this media campaign as an attack and there might be an Israeli effort behind it,” the Turkish Daily Hurriyet quoted an unnamed Turkish intelligence source as saying earlier Saturday. “Especially after the Washington Post story on Oct. 17 and the follow-ups with Jerusalem bylines,” the source added.
Israel’s Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs said Saturday that “there was no Israeli media assault,” and slammed Erdogan as “almost ideologically” opposed to Israel. And an unnamed senior Israeli official was quoted by Channel 2 news as saying, “Erdogan is man of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Hamas support, who is anti-Israel if not an anti-Semite.”
According to the Hurriyet article, “sources in Ankara believe that, besides trying to defame Turkey in US eyes as a country tolerating terrorists like Iran – and because of its ‘independent tack’ on Syria, amid an effort to try and corner it in a possible move in the US Congress — Israel might have had another motivation. That might be, according to those sources who asked not to be named, an attempt to avoid paying compensation for the nine Turks killed by Israeli commandoes [sic] on May 31, 2010, on board the Mavi Marmara on its way to carry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”
Israel and Turkish negotiation teams have been working over the past few months to reach an agreement over compensation to families of those who died in the Gaza flotilla incident. In March, Israel-Turkish relations began to thaw following a President Barack Obama-brokered call by Netanyahu to Erdogan to deliver a formal apology for operational errors made in the raid and promising compensation.
The Hurriyet article noted Israeli and US uneasiness with Turkish intelligence chief Fidan, for his “friendly links with Tehran,” as cited in the Washington Post report, and claimed such reports were aimed at “targeting” Fidan.
Hurriyet cited the unnamed Turkish intelligence official as saying “the campaign coincided with approaching Syria talks in Geneva” — which are slated for late November — “and a dramatic change in Iran’s relations with the West under its new president, Hassan Rouhani.”
On Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the Washington Post allegations, claiming these were part of an orchestrated campaign to discredit Turkey.
There have been “various campaigns, both on [an] international and national level,” aimed at the policies of senior government officials, including Erdogan and Fidan, Today’s Zaman reported Davutoglu as saying.
“There has been a campaign… to discredit our 10-year experience,” Davutoglu said, referring to the decade that Erdogan has been in power. “They wanted to see [the] old Turkey returning back.”
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