Israeli media slam govt handling of row with Turkey


by Jean-Luc Renaudie Jean-luc Renaudie

JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Israeli media on Thursday slammed the government’s handling of a diplomatic row with Turkey in which it humiliated Ankara’s ambassador and then retreated with public apologies.


The front page of the “Israel HaYom” showing Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sitting with the Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Celikkol in Jerusalem with an arrow showing “the height of humiliation” alongside a headline reading “War of Insults”. The Israeli media has slammed the government’s handling of a diplomatic row with Turkey. (AFP/File)

“The policy of ‘no more grovelling’ led by Foreign Minister (Avigdor) Lieberman, was transformed within a matter of days into a situation in which Israel was forced to dispatch an official and diplomatic apology,” Israel’s Maariv newspaper said in an article entitled “Capitulation.”

The spat again turned the spotlight on the controversial minister, an ultra-nationalist who has said Israel should strike back at international criticism and defend its “national honour.”

Under pressure from President Shimon Peres, Lieberman’s deputy Danny Ayalon issued a formal apology late on Wednesday as Turkey threatened to withdraw its envoy.

Ayalon on Monday had publicly dressed down Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, Oguz Celikkol, over a Turkish television series depicting Mossad agents as baby-snatchers.

Amnon Abramovitch, a television commentator on Israel’s Channel Two, criticised the “infantile conduct” of the government and a commentator on Israel’s military radio referred to the “humiliation after the humiliation.”

The centrist opposition Kadima party joined in criticising the government, with senior official Haim Ramon saying it “should also send a letter of apology to the Israeli people following the humiliation we have suffered.”

A spokesman for Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted the protest was justified but said “the style and the procedure that were used were not appropriate and apologies were due.”

“The prime minister hopes the affair is behind us,” the spokesman, Nir Hefetz, told public radio.

An editorial in the left-leaning Haaretz meanwhile came to the defence of Ayalon and Lieberman, both members of the ultra-nationalist Israel Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party, for defending Israel’s “honour.”

“The competition between ex-diplomats, politicians, broadcasters and pundits to be the rudest in criticising the pair brings back memories of the times when anyone who publicly sought to restore the honour of the Jewish people was shouted down by a meek and frightened establishment for fear of angering the gentiles and bringing disaster upon the community,” it said.

“Lieberman… the outsider, who represents a national agenda, is a bull in the china shop of the foreign ministry, the DNA of which is stamped with restraint, apologetics and lip-biting.”

Turkey has been Israel’s main regional ally since the two signed a military cooperation pact in 1996, but relations were poisoned by Ankara’s severe criticism of Israel’s Gaza offensive in December 2008 and January 2009.

The series that sparked the row showed a Turkish secret agent storming an Israeli diplomatic mission to rescue a Turkish boy kidnapped by Mossad agents, an episode Israel slammed for portraying Israel and Jews “as baby-snatchers and war criminals.”

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