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שגרירות טורקיה תל אביב מכתב אבקה לבנה
Photo: Attila Somfalvi
Israel's embassy in Turkey might not have new ambassador
Jerusalem concerned Turkey won't approve replacement for Ambassador Gabby Levy, who is set to leave Ankara shortly after release of Palmer Report on 2010 flotilla
Turkey-Israel ties reach new low: As Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy prepares to complete his term in two weeks, Jerusalem is concerned that Turkey will refuse to approve a replacement ambassador due to the ongoing diplomatic crisis between the two nations.

 

The timing proves problematic as well, as Levy's term ends only a week after the UN's Palmer Report on the 2010 Gaza-bound flotilla incident is set to be released. The findings of the report are expected to support some of Israel's positions.

 

 

While Foreign Ministry officials have hoped that the crisis would be resolved before Levy leaves, any attempts to agree on an apology to Turkey and compensation to the families of the nine activists killed in the raid on the Mavi Marmara were unsuccessful.

 

The release of the report, which has been previously delayed due to the negotiations between Israel and Ankara, is not expected to be postponed again.

 

Senior Foreign Ministry officials have asked Levy to extend his term – a measure that does not require Turkey's approval – but the diplomat, who was supposed to complete his stay in Turkey in July, refused to postpone his departure a second time. 

 

IDF Navy Seals Storm Mavi Marmara (Photo: IDF)
IDF Navy Seals Storm Mavi Marmara (Photo: IDF)

 

The Turkish embassy in Israel has been operating without an ambassador since the flotilla incident; it is currently headed by the ambassador's deputy.

 

The Foreign Ministry is bracing for the possibility that Turkey will downgrade its representative in Tel Aviv from "ambassador" to "envoy," a step that would further consolidate the scope of relations between the two nations.

 

'Erdogan wants to humiliate Israel'

The ministry is also looking into sending a diplomat to temporarily head the embassy in Ankara without being defined as an ambassador in order to avoid the need for Turkey's approval. Foreign Ministry sources expect the new delegate to be a senior, experienced diplomat who will seek to end the crisis.

 

"At worst, there won't be a Turkish ambassador here," a political source close to the negotiations with Ankara said. "We can deal with such a situation, and it's not the end of the world. (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan wants to humiliate Israel and make political headway at Israel's expense."

 

Turkey's demand for an Israeli apology for the flotilla incident has been discussed by the eight-minister forum in recent days, but a decision has yet to be reached. While Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor believe that Israel should apologize and improve the ties with the strategically significant nation, some of the others – headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon – have expressed opposition.

 

"Erdogan won't guarantee that once we apologize, the Israel-Turkey relations will resume in full. The most he is willing to promise us is the reinstatement of the Turkish ambassador. We can do without him. We will only end up worse if we apologize," Ya'alon stressed in a recent meeting.

 

Alon Liel, former Foreign Ministry Director General and Israeli ambassador to Turkey, expressed hope that the two nations would manage to reach an agreement prior to the Palmer Report's release.

 

"The chances seem slim, but it's still possible and we must do everything in our power," he told Ynet.

 

Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report

 

 

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