Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Media condemns Israel over Turkey spat

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu's apology has failed to placate the Arab press

Israel's apology to Turkey over its treatment of the Turkish ambassador has failed to convince many pundits in the Middle Eastern media.

A spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped the affair, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon deliberately seated the Turkish envoy in a low chair and removed the Turkish flag from a table, was now "behind us."

But several commentators in the Middle East and Turkey suggested permanent damage had been done to Israeli-Turkish relations. In Israel, many condemned Ayalon's behaviour, while others felt he had only been responding in kind to Turkish "incitement".

The diplomatic snub came in response to a Turkish TV programme which depicted Mossad agents as child kidnappers.


A commentary in Hurriyet said "it must not be expected that the stains of this event on Turkish-Israeli relations will disappear easily." The article added that the memory of the incident would linger in the memory of Turkish people, and that relations between the two countries would "become much more difficult".

The tabloid Posta said Israeli diplomacy had never before resorted to such "roughness" and argued that its "wrong method" was bound to fail.

A commentary in Milliyet called for cooler heads to prevail on both sides. It criticised Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan for calling Shimon Peres a "murderer" during last year's Davos meeting, saying this could have frightened Turkey's Jewish population. It also blamed TV shows and the internet for "popularising" hatred.

Meanwhile, Zaman blamed Ayalon's superior -Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - for the furore. It said Lieberman had "only damaged his own country" and "struck the biggest blow in history to Turkish-Israeli relations".


"We wonder in Israel why the world relates to us with contempt," said a commentary in Ma'ariv - "and here is the answer: the pot calling the kettle black".

In Ha'aretz, another commentator said the Israeli apology would have little effect and that "the damage has already been done". The most serious outcome of all, the writer said, was the "deep erosion in Turkish public opinion."

However, there was defiance in some quarters of the Israeli press. A commentator in the leading daily Yediot Aharonot said the Foreign Ministry had "done well" to put a dent in Turkish "incitement" and its "anti-Semite policy". The writer said Israel had considerable leverage against Ankara, since "world Jewish capital" could boycott Turkey and exacerbate its "deteriorating" economic situation.

Another writer in Ha'aretz agreed, saying Ayalon had, "albeit clumsily", risen "to restore the honour of the people".

"The days when Jews must cower in fear and fawn over those who spit in our faces are over," said an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post. The writer felt that Ayalon had "nothing to apologize for" and had in fact showed "good, old-fashioned Jewish pride".

Arab world

Middle Eastern commentators were united in condemnation of the Israeli leadership and felt they had shown Israel's "hatred" and "contempt" for others in the region.

The treatment of Turkish ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol was variously described as "shameful" (Syria's Tishrin), "superior" (Jordan's Al-Ra'y) and even "sadistic" (Qatar's Al-Watan).

Lebanon's Al-Safir said Ayalon had only been implementing "a sovereign decision" by the Israeli government to humiliate Celikkol and that Israel's apology "will not end the crisis". Qatar's Al-Watan concurred, saying the "political crisis" between Israel and Turkey "will not end soon".

The pan-Arab Al-Quds Al-Arabi, based in London, also felt that while the apology "may perhaps reduce the tension ... it will not fully restore bilateral ties".

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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