Turkey Still Blocking Israeli Participation in NATO

YERUSHALAYIM -

The U.S.-brokered Israeli apology to Turkey six months ago for the Mavi Marmara incident has yet to yield the desired thaw in bilateral relations.

While both sides have been quiet about the collapse of reconciliation talks, Greece’s Ambassador Spiros Lampridis has told The Jerusalem Post that Turkey continues to block any NATO cooperation with Israel in join exercises, intelligence exchanges, and research and technological development programs.

“We were hoping that after the arrangement between [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Prime Minister Tayyip Recep] Erdogan in the spring, Turkey would pull back a little and allow some of the programs,” he said. “But there is nothing.”

Excluding Israel from NATO programs, Lampridis explained, means in effect excluding other Mediterranean countries as well, because Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria take part in NATO projects with Israel as a bloc.

“We can’t cooperate with any of them, because the programs are all blocked, nothing can go through,” he said.

Lampridis said he was surprised by the continued Turkish opposition, especially since bilateral cooperation does exist, when it benefits Turkey. For example, since Turkish goods can no longer be transported overland through Syria to the Persian Gulf, every week hundreds of Turkish trucks arrive via ferry to Haifa Port and from there on Israeli roads to the Jordan border crossings, carrying millions of dollars in merchandise to Jordan and the Gulf.

“If Israel behaved in the same negative way that Turkey was behaving, it could have said ‘no’ to Turkey, told them, ‘This is your problem. I don’t need these trucks blocking my highways.’ But Israel is cooperating, and Turkey is deriving great benefit from this.”

The Greek ambassador also condemned Erdogan for blaming Jews and Israel for the political unrest in Turkey during the summer and for the overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

“You just don’t say such things,” he said.

Asked if he thought Erdogan was an anti-Semite, he replied, “Even if he is, is it the position a prime minister takes? He can do it privately if he wants. You don’t do it openly and expose a whole country — a country that has never been anti-Semitic in the past, to tell the truth, especially under the Ottoman Empire, when it was a haven for Jews. Other countries were not, Turkey was. What’s wrong with the guy? It really beats me.”