Thursday, 2 Dec 2021 - 28 of Kislev, 5782

Israel continues its diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Israeli couple held in Turkey

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Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish National Assembly  between for the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, told Israel Hayom: “Considering the history of the Erdogan government, which throughout the years has held dozens of citizens of Western countries under false allegations, with the aim of using them as bargaining chips against their governments, the Israeli couple could also become a victim of Turkey’s political legal system.”

Israeli analysts have speculated that Turkish President Erdogan was looking for an excuse to distract attention from his government’s failures and falling popularity. Erdogan faces plenty of internal pressure, high unemployment, inflation and a weakening currency.  Manufacturing an international crises with other countries is a recurring tactic of his.

 

 

Israel continues its intensive diplomatic efforts to secure the release of an Israeli couple being held in Turkey, denying allegations that the two are spies.

Mordy and Natalie Oknin , bus drivers from Modiin, were arrested last Thursday after taking photographs of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul from inside the Küçük Çamlıca TV Radio Tower, a telecommunications building with observation decks. According to Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu, a Turkish national was also arrested.

A Turkish court has extended the remand of two Israeli tourists being accused of spying for Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett related to the incident at the start of yesterday’s cabinet meeting, saying: “These are two innocent civilians who have been mistakenly caught up in a complex situation. I spoke yesterday with the family and we are doing everything to resolve the issue. I asked that the family stay strong, despite the great difficulty. We are with you. Beyond this, it would not be proper to expand at the moment.”

The lawyer for the couple Nir Yaslovizh, told Israeli media that “every effort is being made to bring them back to Israel. We’re not operating under a stopwatch … we are doing all we can to bring them back to Israel ASAP.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog also spoke with relatives of the couple and he stressed that they had nothing at all to do with Israel’s intelligence community and said he believes they are innocent.

Israel is operating on a number of tracks to secure their swift release. The Israeli embassy in Ankara is liaising with the Turkish foreign ministry, whilst both the Mossad and the National Security Adviser are working with their Turkish counterparts too.

At this stage Israel is hoping that quiet diplomatic efforts pay off. Prime Minister Bennett instruct the cabinet ministers to keep a low media profile, so as not to provide a pretext to exacerbate the situation.

The Israelis are still trying to clarify if this was a case of over-zealous local policing or a political decision made from above.  Though the extension of their remand as oppose to swift deportation could suggest the latter.

Israeli analysts have speculated that Turkish President Erdogan was looking for an excuse to distract attention from his government’s failures and falling popularity. Erdogan faces plenty of internal pressure, high unemployment, inflation and a weakening currency.  Manufacturing an international crises with other countries is a recurring tactic of his.

Israel-Turkish relations have been strained over the last few years, largely as a result of Erdogan’s Islamification and his ties to Hamas. However, in July, there appeared efforts of a rapprochement when Erdogan called newly-elected President Herzog and congratulated him.

Turkey also views with suspicion Israel’s expanding relations with Greece and Cyprus, which are at an all-time high.

Last month Erdogan tried to manufacture a different crisis surrounding the arrest of 15 “Mossad agents,” who were arrested for allegedly spying on Hamas.  All of the people arrested were Muslim, mostly Palestinian students from the Gaza Strip.

The fear is that if this goes to trial, they could face fabricated charges and imprisonment for several years.

Turkey has been a popular destination for Israeli tourists. Israel could change their travel advice and declare Turkey a dangerous destination.

‘’Don’t go to Turkey. That should be the government’s message to all Israelis if the Turkish authorities do not immediately release the Israeli couple,’’ wrote The Jerusalem Post.

Aykan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish National Assembly  between for the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, told Israel Hayom: “Considering the history of the Erdogan government, which throughout the years has held dozens of citizens of Western countries under false allegations, with the aim of using them as bargaining chips against their governments, the Israeli couple could also become a victim of Turkey’s political legal system.”

According to Erdemir, “If Ankara is again pursuing a policy of hostage diplomacy, it won’t only harm Israeli-Turkish relations, but rather the entire tourism industry in Turkey. The idea that taking photographs of tourist attractions could lead to tourists being put behind bars is frightening for any potential visitor to Turkey.”

Asked what he believes is the motivation for the arrest of the Israeli couple, Erdemir replied: “Similar to anti-Americanism and anti-Christian sentiments in previous cases, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments appear to be behind the arrest of Natalie and Mordy Oknin.”

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