ANKARA - ’To say the least, we cannot support the position Turkey has taken throughout the Gaza crisis. We certainly express dissatisfaction with some of the statements made by the Turkish Foreign Ministry,’ says Israel's Ambassador to Ankara Gabby Levy
"We will eventually get back to business where we can utilize good services of Turkey for the benefit of ourselves, our neighbors and the entire region," Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Gabby Levy told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview yesterday.
The Turkish government's severe accusations of the Israeli military operation into Gaza have aroused uneasiness in Israel, leading to questions about the country's balanced policy in handling regional conflicts as a neutral peace broker. Turkey has strong military and strategic ties with Israel but also enjoys friendly ties with the Palestinians, whose cause has won widespread sympathy among the population.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have been united in condemning Israel and this prompted Israelis to make their discontent clear to the Turkish Foreign Ministry through diplomatic channels.
"To say the least, we cannot support the position Turkey has taken throughout this crisis. We certainly expressed dissatisfaction with some of the statements made by the (Turkish) Foreign Ministry," said Levy.
"We believe that this time they (the ministry's announcements) were unlike the past; they were one-sided. And we believe that they should consider also the Israeli suffering," he stated.
"Turkey has deserved a role in this crisis. I am quite optimistic: we will overcome this crisis as we did in the past," he added.
A major pipeline project between Turkey and Israel, known as MedStream, may temporarily be suspended due to the emergency situation, according to the ambassador. "There might be a short delay because of the current situation. But I have no impression that there is an intention of any party to undermine this project. It is too important for all the countries involved," he said.
The pipeline, if realized, will ship oil, natural gas and electricity from Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan to southern Israel and from there to a Red Sea port via the existing pipeline network to reach its final destination in India.
Israel aware of Turkish plan
Since Israel began its offensive last month, Turkey has pressed ahead with diplomatic efforts. Erdoğan has visited Arab leaders and dispatched his foreign minister to the United Nations, where Turkey starts a two-year term as member of the Security Council, and his envoy Ahmet Davutoğlu to Damascus for talks with Syrians officials and Hamas.
"I think it is extremely important that someone in the international community has some kind of an open channel for the factors that are going to be involved in the peaceful solution of the situation," said Levy.
Ankara recently announced a two-stage plan to establish a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas to be followed by ensuring reconciliation between Hamas and al-Fatah, whose disagreement is a major source of instability in the region, according to Turkish officials. The Israeli ambassador said, without elaborating, that Israel was aware of the plan.
Over the weekend, hundreds of Turks took to the streets to condemn the Israeli assault, and the embassy, guarded by tight security measures, has been a scene of protests almost every day since the operation began.
"I can understand the emotional reaction of the Turkish public in the view of the fact that there is brotherhood between Muslim people. This is understandable because we, as Jews, also identify with our Jewish brothers and sisters in different countries," said Levy. "But I would have liked that the people of Turkey would have understood what caused this tragedy to happen and we believe that the sole responsibility is to be laid on Hamas."
Meanwhile, a Middle Eastern diplomat told The Associated Press that Turkey would be given the task of constructing an international force for Gaza.
"Turkey is the best choice given its involvement in several peacekeeping missions in the Middle East," the diplomat was quoted as saying.