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Israeli envoy leaves Turkey; row escalates

ISTANBUL: Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Eitan Naeh (left) holds his luggage at Istanbul Ataturk Airport yesterday, as he prepares to leave Turkey. — AFP

ISTANBUL: Israel’s ambassador to Turkey yesterday left the country after being ordered out by Ankara in a growing crisis over the killing by Israeli fire of dozens of Palestinians on the Gaza border that threatens a reconciliation deal. Israeli ambassador Eitan Naeh departed for Tel Aviv via Istanbul airport under the full glare of the Turkish media, who appeared to have been specially invited to film his exit. Naeh has been told by Turkey to stay away for an unspecified period of time.

Turkey had already withdrawn its Tel Aviv ambassador for consultations while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave, also for an unspecified period of time. The Turkish foreign ministry yesterday also told the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to leave Turkey “for a period of time”, the foreign ministry said. The manner of Naeh’s departure angered the Israeli government, with the ambassador filmed going through an extra security check and then sitting alone at the gate.

Israel’s foreign ministry yesterday summoned the Turkish charge d’affaires in Israel to its Jerusalem headquarters for a reprimand over what it called in a statement “inappropriate treatment” of the ambassador. The statement said that Naeh was subjected to “a stringent security check in the pre-arranged presence of the Turkish media.” The Israeli statement invited local news teams to film Turkish charge d’affaires Umut Deniz when he arrived at the foreign ministry.

‘Strong message’
The row, which on Tuesday saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu exchange bitter jibes on Twitter, threatens a 2016 deal to normalize ties after the crisis sparked by the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos. Turkey has expressed outrage over the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians during protests and clashes on the Gaza border and also blamed tensions on the US decision to move its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Ankara also withdrew its ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic for consultations after the bloodshed, which came on the same day the embassy move took place. Kilic arrived back in Ankara yesterday afternoon, state media said. Erdogan will tomorrow host an emergency summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul which he has said will send a “strong message to the world” on the whole issue.

The Turkish leader has engaged in intense telephone diplomacy to drum up support for the summit, speaking to leaders including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Saudi King Salman, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Yet it remains to be seen which leaders will be present at the summit which will immediately be followed by a giant rally called by Erdogan in Istanbul to support the Palestinians. Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said Turkey wanted to evacuate wounded Palestinians from Gaza for treatment but had yet to receive the necessary permissions from Egypt or Israel.

‘History won’t forgive’
Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, this week has accused Israel of “genocide” and told Netanyahu he is leading an “apartheid state” while having the “blood of Palestinians” on his hands. Netanyahu described Erdogan as “an expert on terror and slaughter” as a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Erdogan hit back, saying Hamas is a “resistance movement”. Meanwhile Netanyahu’s son Yair posted on his personal Instagram account the slogan “F….k Turkey” with the letter “c” turned into the crescent on the Turkish flag, Israeli media including Haaretz reported.

The Netanyahu family spokesman put out a statement saying: “Yair Netanyahu is a private person, and his Instagram page is also private.” Meanwhile the Turkish presidency said that on a visit to London on Tuesday Erdogan met a delegation of ultra-orthodox Jews from anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta, a very small splinter group on the margins of ultra-Orthodox Jewry. They oppose the existence of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah. They had previously met with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who became notorious for his verbal diatribes against Israel._ AFP

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