Turkey delists Israel as favored export target amid tension over Hamas war

In first sanctions since Oct. 7, Anakara will not encourage or support exporting goods to Israel, won’t help traders who run into complications

People shout slogans as they march in support of Palestinians during a protest calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 14, 2024. (Emrah Gurel/AP)
People shout slogans as they march in support of Palestinians during a protest calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 14, 2024. (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Turkey has removed Israel from its list of countries targeted for export in a move that could discourage local businesses from engaging in trade, according to Hebrew media reports Sunday.

It was the first sanctions that Turkey has taken against Israel since the outbreak of war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip that was prompted by the Palestinian terror group’s massive deadly assault on October 7.

Ankara will stop motivating companies to export to Israel and it won’t subsidize or support business with the Jewish state, Channel 12 reported. The measure is also seen as a signal to businesspeople that if they do go ahead and trade with Israel, the government won’t help them out if there are any complications.

Each year the Turkish Commerce Ministry publishes a list of dozens countries that it directs local companies to build trade ties with. According to Turkish media reports last week, five countries were removed from last year’s list: Israel, Iraq, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.

Regarding its selection process, the Commerce Ministry said in a statement “Taking into account the global, political and economic conjuncture, studies have been carried out to determine the target markets to which our companies can be directed in 2024, in line with the aim of increasing our exports.”

It did not specifically mention Israel’s delisting as tied to the war with Hamas saying only it took into consideration and examined “countries within the framework of the Distant Countries Strategy and member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”

Media reports noted that nine countries were added to the new list: Bangladesh, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Algeria, Czechia, Portugal, Tunisia, Oman and Jordan.

Ties between Israel and Turkey have frayed over the war, which began with Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians, and more than 250 were taken hostage under the cover of thousands of rockets.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza, vowing to destroy Hamas and release the hostages.

IDF troops operating in the Gaza Strip in pictures cleared for publication on January 22, 2024. (IDF)

Israel recalled its diplomats from Turkey after Erdogan accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza. Turkey later also recalled its ambassador from Israel. The Ankara government has backed South Africa in its accusation of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, an expert on Turkey at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, told Channel 12 the change means, among other things, “to stop encouraging business cooperation between the countries, such as joint conferences of trade associations.”

Cohen Yanarocak gave as an example the Turkish Ministry of Commerce financing in 2022 a large delegation from the food, furniture, and technology industries who came to Israel to develop trade.

In 2013 Israel was the 13th top country for exports from Turkey, with trade amounting to some $5.42 billion, accounting for 2.1 percent of total Turkish export value. Nonetheless, that figure was lower than the $7.2 billion in imports from Israel recorded in 2022.

According to the Turkish transportation ministry, since October 7 some 701 ships — about eight a day — have arrived in Israel from Turkey, the network said. Of those, 480 had begun their journey from Turkey while another 221 started elsewhere and then docked at Turkish ports before continuing their passage to either Haifa or Ashdod in Israel.

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