In a letter addressed to Israel's ambassador in Turkey, Gabby Levy, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara said Tuesday it expects an Israeli "explanation and apology", but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in closed talks later that he supported the Foreign Ministry's conduct, and that Turkey was inching closer to Iran.
"We hope that the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which has assumed an undiplomatic attitude in its statements, will comply with diplomatic courtesy rules," a statement from Ankara said, referring to Israel's response to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Israel.
Turkey renewed its criticism on Tuesday of Israel for its 2008 raid on Gaza, saying it had scuttled a potential peace deal, despite an Israeli warning that Turkey's stance was detrimental to their relations.
"One day before the attack on Gaza, we were so close to peace between Israel and Syria (and) suddenly Gaza was attacked by Israeli air forces," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
He said the Gaza attack had marked the turning point in Turkish-Israeli relations and denied speculation the cooling was linked to difficulties with Turkey's bid to join the European Union or with any Islamisation of Turkish foreign policy.
Addressing the diplomatic incident, Davutoglu told the Anatolia news agency that "no one must dare show the Turkish ambassador disrespect".
"There can be disagreements between countries, and each can even criticize the other's policies, but all nations are obligated to adhere to the rules of diplomatic courtesy," he told reporters in London.
But Netanyahu's affiliates said he expressed support Tuesday for Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's policies towards Turkey, despite the recent diplomatic fallout.
The prime minister said Turkey was inching closer to Iran, and that he found this disconcerting. He added that the process had begun before Operation Cast Lead, and that according to state officials Ankara was deepening ties with Muslim countries because it had not yet been accepted to the European Union.
"There are three strong countries in the Middle East that are not Arab," he said. "Israel has always been rooted in the West. Iran was once Western but is currently the leader of radical Islam. The third is Turkey, which used to be close to the West but in recent years has begun to look eastward, towards Iran, and that is why its systematic glide east should worry us."
Official sources in Jerusalem said Erdogan had changed his attitude towards Israel since Operation Cast Lead. "This process started when Erdogan abandoned a debate with President Shimon Peres (in Davos), so actually what is being done in Jerusalem is less important than what is happening in Ankara," one source said.
Erdogan refuses to meet Barak
Meanwhile, Erdogan said he would not meet Ehud Barak during the Israeli defense minister's scheduled visit Ankara next week, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Tuesday.
Barak's office said that in any case he was not scheduled to meet Erdogan.
Turkey's ambassador to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, told MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) on Tuesday he is scheduled to travel to Turkey for consultations.
El-Sana spoke to the ambassador on the phone following the latter's meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who summoned Celikkol to be reprimanded and was seen by many to have humiliated him in the process.
El-Sana called Ayalon's conduct "shameful and disgraceful", adding that it constituted "diplomatic hooliganism". The Arab MK said he valued the Turkish government's efforts to advance regional peace and its opposition to the "Israeli occupation".
Netanyahu said he was a party to the decision to reprimand the Turkish ambassador, but that he had not been aware of the manner in which this was carried out. He also objected to recalling Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Gabi Levy.
Earlier Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli Foreign Ministry's statement regarding the remarks made by PM Erdogan.
The communiqué issued in Ankara said that Jerusalem's statement was issued for internal political purposes and crossed far over the boundaries. Turkey's official news agency Anatolia emphasized that Erdogan only criticized Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip and stressed the historic ties between the Turks and Jews.
Daniel Edelson, Roni Sofer, and Reuters contributed to the report