Officials in Jerusalem say they were not surprised by reports that Israeli passengers were held up at the Istanbul airport Monday, charging that Ankara is seeking to provoke an open confrontation with Israel.
"The Turks are trying to forcefully lead us into an open confrontation and street fights in the international arena, but we shall not give them this pleasure," one diplomatic source told Ynet Monday afternoon.
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Dozens of Israeli passengers on board a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul were held for several hours by local police after their passports were taken away from them. Some of them said they underwent a humiliating investigation by local authorities before being released. Israelis who frequently make the trip told Ynet such incident was unprecedented.
"I think that the police officers didn't even know what they were looking for," one of the passengers told Ynet. "They apparently got an order to detain us, one by one. Everyone was in shock; we didn't know what they were going to do to us. Obviously this was done intentionally in order to create an unpleasant feeling."
Israelis humiliated at airport (Photo: AFP)
"We were not surprised by what happened there. After all, the Turks promised to harass us, and this is one way of doing it," an Israeli official said. "Yet at the end of the day, the Turkish economy will be hurt after it loses businesspeople and tourists. Who would want to arrive in Turkey with such treatment?"
"We can obviously expect a difficult period vis-à-vis Turkey, yet this is something that was taken into account," one official said.
Turkey's decision to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel was taken after Israel's refusal to apologize for the raid in a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel in 2010.
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni also addressed Monday's incident in Istanbul, saying that Turkey recognizes Israeli weakness and allows itself to do things that were not done in the past.
"The operation against the flotilla was justified, the Gaza Strip blockade was justified, and the detention of Israelis at a Turkish airport is unacceptable – yet things may further deteriorate," she said. "It won't end with delays at the airport."
Roi Kais contributed to the story