A Turkish construction company has become the first to renounce Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his public anti-Israeli remarks, which the company says is damaging its business in Israel, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
CEO of Yilmazlar Holdings, Ahmet Reyiz Yılmaz, said the company would be suing Erdogan for his part in causing an Israeli judge to freeze $2.6 million of the company's assets at an Israeli bank last week.
“The reason was only the politics of our prime minister,” Yilmaz told Bloomberg. “He has a responsibility to his country, and he cannot say irresponsible things.”
Yilmaz said the judge had cited one of the Turkish prime minister's speeches as the reason for the verdict, saying it sparked concern that Turkish companies would be forced to leave Israel soon.
The judicial system in Israel was unfamiliar with Yilmaz's case. "To the best of my knowledge, the Israeli government has not frozen the assets of any Turkish company because of a remark by the Turkish government," an official government source told Ynet.
"Especially since the Turkish government has not yet made any moves to act on its declaration that it would freeze joint business projects, and as far as we know it never will," the source added.
Yilmaz, who has earned the title of "Israeli Ahmet" with his business partners in the country, has been working in Israel for 16 years. Among other things, he has been involved in the construction of the YOO tower and the square Azrieli tower in Tel Aviv, as well as the controversial Holyland complex in Jerusalem.
Yilmaz has not been mentioned in the Holyland bribe scandal, but his name did make headlines in 2002, when an affair called 'Tanks for Turks' was made public.
The affair centered on an agreement signed between the Israeli Military Industries and the Turkish government, for a $700 million overhaul of the latter's tanks. In return, IMI was to buy $200 million worth of Turkish military equipment and the state vowed to grant work visas to 800 of Yilmaz's workers.
The deal was criticized by foreign workers' organizations, who claimed it was condoning human trafficking, as well as others who claimed the two governments were favoring Yilmaz's company. However all petitions against it were eventually denied, and the agreement was carried through.
Tani Goldstien and Avital Lahav contributed to this report