Itamar Eichner
Itamar Eichner
Mordy and Natali Oknin in Istanbul before their arrest on suspicion of spying on Thursday

Israeli couple jailed in Turkey are pawns in internal political game

Analysis: Turkish interior minister — vying to be heir of the aging Erdogan — says Mordy and Natali Oknin are not innocent tourists and their fate must be decided by court, indicating that Istanbul is not seeking quick resolution to the crisis

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 11.17.21, 09:26
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu's statement on Tuesday regarding the Israeli couple imprisoned over alleged espionage charges should raise concerns in Jerusalem, exposing the real motive behind their arrest — a sick game of internal politics among President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's subordinates to claim the aging leader's throne.
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  • Mordy and Natali Oknin were arrested with a local friend after photographing the Istanbul residence of the Turkish president last Thursday.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    נטלי ומורדי אוקנין
    נטלי ומורדי אוקנין
    Mordy and Natali Oknin in Istanbul before their arrest on suspicion of spying on Thursday
    While Israel repeatedly stressed that the couple were mere tourists, Soylu said they were not so innocent.
    "They did not just photograph the house, they focused on it and even marked it," he said in response to reporters' questions. "This can be called political and military espionage. Only the court will be the one to decide."
    The minister is deputy chairman of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), but is not seen as an ally of the Turkish leader, with his comments a possible indication of a political power struggle.
    Soylu, along with Head of National Intelligence Hakan Fidan and the Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, are vying for the aging president's job.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    סולימאן סוילו שר הפנים הטורקי
    סולימאן סוילו שר הפנים הטורקי
    Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu
    (Photo: Tasnim News Agency)
    His words may have further complicated matters and may be evidence that Turkey was not seeking a quick resolution to the crisis.
    Soylu said the fate of the Israelis is in the hands of the Turkish court, a slow and grinding process at best.
    On Tuesday, the couple appealed the court's decision to remand them into custody for 20 days. A ruling is expected in a week's time.
    According to sources in Israel, efforts to bring about their release are being conducted at the highest diplomatic level, but if they do fail to yield any results, President Issac Herzog may be asked to intervene and contact Erdogan directly.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are also working behind the scenes to bring about a quick resolution, the sources said.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    נטלי ומורדי אוקנין הישראלים שצילמו את ארמונו של ארדואן יוצאים מבית המשפט באיסטנבול, טורקיה
    נטלי ומורדי אוקנין הישראלים שצילמו את ארמונו של ארדואן יוצאים מבית המשפט באיסטנבול, טורקיה
    Mordy and Natali Oknin leave court after their remand to custody on suspicion of spying on Friday
    (Photo: Takvim)
    Tuesday was also the first time Turkish officials allow Israeli diplomats to meet with the couple.
    The Oknin family in Israel are preparing for an extended process and are appealing to the Israeli public for help in financing their fight for freedom.




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