Turkey will “re-evaluate” its economic relationship with Israel after the country’s June 24th elections, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in weekend comments, Turkish media reported Tuesday. Erdogan made the comments in the wake of a decision by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to impose an embargo on Israeli products.
“I hope the OIC counties will put the decision of the embargo into practice. After all, there will be no way to get any products from them anymore,” the Hurriyet Daily News quoted Erdogan as telling a group of Turkish journalists. “Of course, we will assess the situation as well. As Turkey, we will evaluate our ties, particularly economic and trade, with them [Israel]. We have an upcoming election. We will take steps in this direction after the elections.”
Despite ups and downs in their relationship since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, trade between Israel and Turkey remained healthy between 2010 and 2016. In 2016 Israeli exported to Turkey over $1.26 billion in goods and services, while Israeli imports from Turkey that year were worth $2.6 billion.
Earlier this week, a number of Israeli officials said that despite the latest “down” in the relationship – in which both countries ejected diplomats and subjected them to “humiliations” on their way out of the respective countries – Israel and Turkey would maintain their economic ties. Speaking to Army Radio, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called the ties “important,” adding that the threats of economic embargo and Erdogan’s show of anger at Israel are due to his “internal problems. He has an ongoing ritual” in turning on Israel when the pressure is on, like during elections, Kahlon said.
If Turkey does pull back its economic cooperation with Israel, the move would likely hurt both economies – but one of Ankara’s “golden jewels” – Turkish Airlines – would likely be among the worst hit of any company in either country.
Turkish Airlines has emerged in recent years as the second most active carrier to and from Ben Gurion airport, ferrying hundreds of thousands Israelis to and from Istanbul in 2017 – second only to Israel’s own El Al. Most of those Israelis transferred in Istanbul to flights to other destinations, but a significant number remain in the city or visit other locations in Turkey as well; according to Turkish government figures, nearly 400,000 Israelis vacationed in the country in 2017.
In a 2015 interview with Globes, Turkish Airlines Vice President Ziya Taskent said that Tel Aviv was Turkish’s busiest route. “”The number of flights to Tel Aviv is the greatest on Turkish Airlines network of global routes. It’s a profitable route, and it’s very important for us to continue promoting it. 85 percent of the passengers on it continue on connecting flights to Europe and Asia, and we’ll always want to be the best option for them.”