Israel won`t be Turkish `punching bag`: Lieberman

Israel`s minister blames Turkey for crisis in ties between Israel and Ankara.

Updated: Jan 06, 2011, 16:52 PM IST

Jerusalem: Turkey is to blame for the crisis in relations between Israel and Ankara, and the Jewish state will not become a Turkish "punching bag”, Israel`s foreign minister said on Thursday.

In a commentary published in the English-language Jerusalem Post, Avigdor Lieberman accused Ankara of anti-Israel incitement, and warned the situation in Turkey reminded him of Iran just before the Islamic revolution.

Ties between the two countries frayed to near breaking point after Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turkish activists during a raid last year on a flotilla of aid ships trying to breach the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

But Lieberman said the tensions predated that incident, and were manufactured by the Turkish government.

"The exact genesis of the current crisis can be traced to the moment in January 2009 when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally attacked and humiliated President Shimon Peres... at the World Economic Forum," he wrote.

"This outburst was not improvised or reactive, but part of a carefully thought-out strategy."

Lieberman said Israel had no desire to see relations with Ankara deteriorate, accusing Turkey`s politicians of exploiting Israel for domestic political purposes.

He cited a visit by Erdogan to Lebanon in November, during which the Turkish leader accused Israel of killing women and children. And he also lashed out at the imminent release of the Turkish movie "Valley of the Wolves," saying it included anti-Semitic slurs.

"Unfortunately, recent events in Turkey are reminiscent of Iran before the Islamic Revolution," he wrote.

The ultra-nationalist minister has vowed the Jewish state will not apologise to Turkey for its May 31, 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara which was part of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla

And he criticised Ankara for failing to respond to the "dreadful spectacle" of crowds welcoming the ferry back to Turkey with chants of "Death to Israel”.

"The lack of condemnation for these outrageous scenes... makes it extremely hard for us to show restraint. We will not be a punching bag and will react, as any other sovereign nation, to such insults and abuse," he wrote.

Turkey and Israel have held mediated talks seeking a way to reset relations, but Ankara has insisted on an Israeli apology for the raid.

Lieberman called on his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu to join him for talks, but warned Ankara "needs to stop looking for excuses and attaching preconditions”.

Bureau Report