Ayalon (L) and Turkish envoy Celikkol
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Turks protest against Barak's scheduled visit
Photo: Reuters

Israel threatens to expel Turkish ambassador

Deputy FM Ayalon tells Channel 2 he did not mean to humiliate Ambassador Celikkol by seating him on sofa lower than his own, but says Israel was right to make it clear to Turks that there would be a 'price tag' for 'trampling upon the dignity of the Jewish state'. Islamic human rights group holds march to protest Barak's planned visit to Ankara

The Israeli official who touched off a diplomatic crisis with Turkey this week said Saturday that the country's ambassador could be expelled if Turkish TV dramas continue to depict Israeli security forces as brutal.


Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon made that point a day before Defense Minister Ehud Barak was due to fly to Turkey for a first visit by an Israeli official since the feud erupted Monday. The visit was scheduled before the row, but will be closely watched, especially because the quarrel was just the latest in a series of confrontations between the once-close allies.


Ayalon called in the Turkish ambassador earlier this week to reprimand him over a TV program that showed Israeli agents kidnapping children and shooting old men. He was forced to apologize after Turkey threatened to summon its ambassador home.


He seated Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol on a sofa lower than his own chair and wouldn't shake his hand in televised images of the meeting.


Ayalon told Channel 2 TV Saturday that his intent was not to humiliate Celikkol. Still, he said Israel was right to make it clear to the Turks that there would be a "price tag" for what he said amounted to trampling upon the dignity of the Jewish state.


Asked what Israel would do if another objectionable TV segment were shown, Ayalon replied, "Maybe we would summon the ambassador; maybe we would expel their ambassador."


Protest in Turkey against Barak's visit (Photo: AP)


The same threat would apply to ambassadors from other nations that treat Israel similarly, he added, echoing the attitude of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has instructed Israeli diplomats not to "grovel" before their host countries.


Israel and Turkey had built strong military and economic ties over the past 15 years, with Turkey becoming Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world.


But tension increased a year ago after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan censured Israel for the high Palestinian civilian death toll during its military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.


Ayalon said in Saturday's TV interview that it was Erdogan who affronted the Jewish state by storming off a stage he was sharing with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in the early days of the war.


Erdogan's criticism has not eased, and he lashed out again at Israel hours before Ayalon summoned Celikkol for the reprimand.


Turkey also canceled a high-profile military exercise last fall because Israel was to have participated. And the TV program that Israel found so objectionable is the second of its kind to air in Turkey in recent months.


Turkey's warming relations with Iran are also of great concern to Israel, which considers Tehran to be its most menacing enemy.


In Ankara, Turkey, on Saturday, members of an Islamic human rights group held a march to protest Barak's planned visit.


פרסום ראשון: 01.16.10, 22:48
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