By Mara Vigevani/TPS
JERUSALEM—Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday that despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “intolerable” behavior, severing ties with Turkey would be a terrible mistake.
Speaking to the Ynet website against the backdrop of the twitter war of words that heated up during the weekend between the Israeli and the Turkish leaders, Steinitz suggested to hold in and not to sever relations with Ankara.
“I would suggest holding in. Israel has many economic ties with Turkey, even though this is intolerable behavior that was condemned by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, we can not sever ties like the US did not sever relations despite Erdogan’s very harsh statements, and as Germany and the Netherlands did not sever relations with Ankara,” Steinitz said
Steinitz added that “Even in Egypt and Jordan, there are serious phenomena of incitement against Israel, and in the past, even leaders have deflected against Israel, but we have not canceled the peace agreements, and the US is still conducting a dialogue with North Korea, which threatened its destruction. We have to act first of all from the head, not from the stomach, to sever relations with Turkey. This would be a terrible mistake ”
Tensions between Turkey and Israel, escalated on Saturday as Erdogan told a group of Turkish youths: “Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground. You are not a Jew in Israel.”
Netanyahu responded caustically, tweeting that “Erdogan – the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey – should not preach to Israel.”
On Sunday, Erdogan called Netanyahu an “oppressor.”
“Erdoğan is the voice of oppressed and you [Benjamin Netanyahu] are the voice of oppressors. You are conducting state terrorism.” he said, “Israel has no right to accuse anyone without accounting for its own sins, crimes against humanity, massacres, and destruction.”
The comment did not go unnoticed in the Prime Minister’s Office with Netanyahu later calling Erdogan a ”dictator” who is “obsessed with Israel”.
“ He knows what a moral army we are and he knows what a real democracy we have become, as opposed to an army massacring women and children in Kurdish villages. Unfortunately becoming a dictator.” Netanyahu said.
Also on Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called Netanyahu “a cold-blooded killer of modern times.” He added that Netanyahu is “responsible for massacres of thousands of Palestinians, bombing children on beaches. Turkey will never stop exposing the truth.”
The exchange was the latest round in a long string of arguments between Erdoğan and Israeli leaders, dating back more than a decade. In 2007, he notably stormed off stage during a joint appearance with then-President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2007, and more recently has called Netanyahu a “terrorist.” In addition, he recalled Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oğuz Çelikkol in May, 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident in which 10 Turkish nationals died after attacking Israeli Navy Seals who had boarded the vessel in order to enforce the naval blockade of Gaza, and full ties were not restored until Israel apologised and agreed to pay damages to the families in 2016.
In July Erdoğan said Israel is a “fascist and racist country,” relating to the controversial National State law passed by the Israeli parliament in which defined the country as the nation state of the Jewish people. Netanyahu immediately to launched a counter-offensive saying that the fact that ‘the great ‘dictator’ Erdogan” who is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has jailed tens of thousands of his citizens is attacking the Nation-State Law is the greatest compliment for this law
At the same time, however, economic ties between Israel and Turkey have remained strong. In 2017 bilateral trade totaled $4.3 billion, an increase of 11% from the previous year, not including civil aviation. Turkish Airlines is the number one foreign airline operating in Israel, with more than a million passengers traveling to and from Israel a year.