Jun 03 2018

‘Erdogan plays brinkmanship with Israel-Turkey economic ties’ - Globes

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not carry out his threats to severe economic relations with Israel in the view of the rapidly developing economic crisis in the country, Israeli business news site Globes said on Sunday. 

Erdogan will not dare to break off economic relations with Israel, but his latest threats may have a considerable effect at a time when import-export companies are looking for stability, the Globes said. 

“This is the man and this is his style. We know that there are elections in a few weeks. At the same time, there is a very substantial economic crisis in Turkey, so it is possible that in view of this situation, what he says is mere rhetoric,” Prof. Miri Shefer-Mossensohn of the Department of Middle Eastern & African History at Tel Aviv University told the Globes. 

According to Turkish Statistical Institute, Turkey’s exports to Israel reached $ 3,41 billion in 2017, while imports from Israel was $ 1,51 million. 

"This means that if the threats are carried out, Turkey will be damaged far more than Israel. I think that these statements are designed to give the Turkish people the impression that Turkey is a strong country and is no longer afraid,” Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, an expert on Turkey at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University said. 

According to Yanarocak, although opposition candidates in Turkey are making more extreme remarks against Israel than Erdogan, those remarks are made for internal politics and those candidates are far friendlier to Israel, both ideologically and personally.

“Unless Turkey declares war on Israel, and that is not the situation, these things are still going on. There may be some slackening of demand, but the potential damage is mutual and it is important to stress that we and Turkey have a history of keeping economics and politics separate,” Manufacturers Association of Israel Foreign Trade Division director Dan Catarivas said. 

Sources familiar with the business ties between the countries mentioned to Globes the fact that among the first to be harmed by the termination of economic relations will be Erdogan's sons, Bilal and Ahmet, who allegedly own a fleet of cargo ships that at least formerly worked on the route to Israel.

“We will put our relations on the table, in particular our economic and trade relations. We have an election ahead of us. After the election we will take our steps in this direction,” President Erdoğan told the reporters on May 21 on a return flight from Bosnia, hinting Turkey might impose a ban on imports of some Israeli goods.

A diplomatic row between the two countries started after Israeli soldiers killed 58 Gazans and wounded thousands of others as they protested around the Israeli border on May 14. The Turkish foreign ministry expelled Israeli Ambassador Eitan Naeh for an undetermined period of time and

Erdoğan and Isrraeli president Benjamin Netanyahu traded barbs over the massacre in Gaza, with Erdoğan saying Netanyahu had “blood on his hands” and inviting him to read the Ten Commandments. Netanyahu responded by calling Erdoğan one of the biggest supporters of Hamas and advised him not to preach combat ethics to Israel.