Expelled Israeli ambassador humiliated at Istanbul airport
After he was expelled from Turkey, Ambassador Eitan Na'eh made to go through strict security check at airport in front of Turkish media cameras, which were especially invited to cover his departure; Foreign Ministry summons no.2 Turkish diplomat in Israel for reprimand, asked to show ID at entrance.
Israel's Ambassador to Ankara Eitan Na'eh, who was expelled
at the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was humiliated at the Istanbul International Airport on Wednesday as he was made to undergo a strict security screening in front of media cameras.
The Turkish media teams were invited to the airport to cover Na'eh's departure from the country and filmed him removing his jacket and shoes at the request of security personnel. Na'eh was also frisked by a Turkish security guard.
"This was an intentional humiliation," an Israeli official said. "The journalists were invited to the airport and taken into the sterile area of a Turkish Airlines flight, where security checks are done right before boarding."
Returning to Israel, Na'eh said he always has to undergo security checks at the Istanbul airport, but that this was the only time cameras were brought in to witness it.
"There's no place like Israel," Na'eh added.
Na'eh undergoes strict security check at airport
Because of the on-camera humiliation, the no. 2 diplomat in the Turkish mission in Israel, Umut Deniz, was summoned by the Foreign Ministry for a reprimand.
Upon his arrival at the Foreign Ministry, Deniz was asked to present his identification at the entrance—Israel's response to the humiliation of Na'eh.
In her meeting with Deniz, the director of the Foreign Ministry's Southern Europe Department, Iris Ambor, "expressed Israel's strong protest to the outrageous Turkish conduct," adding that "Israel cannot tolerate such behavior towards its representative. This behavior constitutes a blatant violation of the diplomatic code of conduct common among nations. This position has also been made clear directly to Ankara as well."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel "views the incident that took place this morning at the airport very gravely. It cannot be that Israel's ambassador to Ankara is humiliated at the Istanbul airport, and in the presence of media that was brought there intentionally. This is something that must not happen between countries that have diplomatic ties. Because of that, we summoned the Turkish official."
Turkish diplomat Umut Deniz asked to show identification (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
It was the latest blow in the recent diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, which started with Erdoğan's decision to recall the ambassadors to the US and to Israel in the wake of the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem and Israel's handling of the Gaza border riots, which exacted a high death toll.
Erdoğan then decided to expel Na'eh, with Israel responding to the move by asking the Turkish Consul in Jerusalem, Hüsnü Gürcan Türkoğlu, to leave the country.
This led the Turkish Foreign Ministry to summon Israel's Consul-General in Istanbul, Yosef Levi Sfari, and ask him to leave the country
until further notice.
None of the diplomats have been declared persona non grata, and the expulsions are temporary.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been very vocal in his criticism of Israeli handling of the rioting on the Gaza border, during which mostly young Palestinians encouraged by Hamas have been trying to breach the border fence and enter Israel in what has been dubbed the "Great March of Return."
Over 100 Palestinians were killed in border clashes since the "Great March of Return" campaign began in March, with 60 killed on Monday alone.
Erdoğan and Netanyahu have been exchanging barbs over the past two days in the wake of the Turkish president's harsh criticism of Israel.
On Tuesday, Turkish opposition parties joined in the condemnation of Israel for the events on the Gaza border; they even called for the annulment of the reconciliation agreement signed between the two countries.
The exchanges came less than two years after the countries reconciled and exchanged ambassadors after six years of animosity. Once close allies in an Arab-dominated neighborhood, Israel and Turkey's ties began to decline after now-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, first came to power as prime minister in 2003. Relations imploded in 2010 after a confrontation between Israeli commandos and a pro-Islamic Turkish flotilla trying to breach the blockade of Gaza left 10 Turkish activists dead.
Wednesday's incident is reminiscent of the 2010 humiliation
of Turkey's then-ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol by Israel's then-deputy minister Danny Ayalon.
Ayalon, who invited the media to cover the reprimand to the ambassador over comments Erdoğan made
at the time against Israel, refused to shake the Turkish diplomat's hand. He also sat on a chair, looking down at Celikkol, who was sitting on a couch.