Officials in Jerusalem have decided to cancel a $141 million defense deal with Turkey, saying they were concerned that Ankara could hand over cutting-edge intelligence equipment to third parties hostile to Israel.
The equipment in question is an aerial intelligence system based on electro-optic sensors and meant for Turkish aircraft. The advanced system has already been installed on Israeli jets.
A defense official stressed that the relationship with Turkey is very important to Israel,
but added that "at the same time we have security responsibility for every product that receives an export license."
"Decisions on this matter have to do with the specific system, rather than with the overall relationship," the official said.
Israel withholds innovative equipment (Photo: Yair Sagi, Yedioth Ahronoth)
The Defense Ministry also responded to the report, issuing the following statement: "As a rule, the Ministry of Defense does not detail all the considerations and information at the basis of its decision-making in setting defense exports' policy…decisions are undertaken on a professional basis, in line with security and diplomatic considerations."
The nixed deal was signed between Jerusalem and Ankara in 2008, with negotiations dating back to 2000.
Earlier, officials in the Defense Ministry and in Elbit Systems, the manufacturer of the system, confirmed the deal was called off. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the matter. There was no immediate comment from Ankara.
The Israel-Turkey diplomatic crisis peaked last year when Israeli commandos raiding a Turkish protest ship headed for Gaza killed nine pro-Palestinian activists. Both sides said they acted in self defense.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutogul said that Turkey's recent, firm policies in the Middle East "have brought Israel to its knees."
According to the Turkish website Today's Zaman, Davutoglu's statement, made before the Turkish Parliament, was meant to counter claims by the opposition suggesting that Turkey's foreign policy was dependent on Western countries, and that Turkey's foreign policy is shifting towards the East.