Jewish Leaders Call the Downgrading of Ties with Israel by Turkish Government "Unjustified and Counterproductive"
New York, September 2, 2011
Richard Stone, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, expressed dismay at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogans decision to downgrade ties with Israel.
The publication of the UN-sponsored Palmer report, which concluded that Israels boarding last year of a Gaza bound Turkish ship while excessive, was legala conclusion disputed by Ankarahas prompted the Turkish government to make official the reduction of its already deteriorating ties with Israel. PM Erdogan ordered Israels ambassador, Gabby Levy, to leave Turkey by Wednesday and reduced its diplomatic staff in Israel to the level of second secretary, a low ranking diplomatic position.
These moves are wholly unjustified and will prove counterproductive both to the interests of Turkey and the region. Our disappointment is even greater because of the long friendship that Israel and the American Jewish community have had with the people and successive governments of Turkey. The Palmer Report of the United Nations, which Prime Minister Erdogan dismissed and said would not be considered by Turkey, clearly states that Israel legally and justifiably instituted the blockade on Gaza in order to protect its citizens, and that the blockade meets all standards of international law. While the report also asserts that Israel used excessive force in its response, it places responsibility on Turkey for failure to prevent the ensuing violence by inadequately screening the flotilla participants, said Stone and Hoenlein.
Conference of Presidents leaders also said, The steps taken by the Turkish government will only inhibit a resolution of the current tensions. Furthermore, the threats to go to European courts against Israel are baseless, particularly in view of the findings by the Palmer Commission that Israels actions were legal.
Despite the fact that Israel acted in accordance with international law in enforcing the blockade, it made generous offers in an attempt to resolve differences with the Turkish government. Regrettably, the Turkish government spurned these offers and added unreasonable demands.
We know that Israel has many friends among the Turkish population and even among officials of the Turkish government, and we want to see those relationships, as well as the economic and cultural exchanges between Turkey and Israel, continue.
We are especially disturbed by some of the media coverage describing those killed on the Turkish ship bound for Gaza as Turkish humanitarian workers when they were in fact members of the IHH, which is well known to support terrorist organizations such as Hamas and to be consistently involved in terrorist related activity. Many reports from the press featured headlines noting that Israel has been accused of using excessive force, while minimizing the more significant findings that legitimated Israels actions and found them to be legal. Deliberately distorted reportage of this kind undermines the credibility of the media involved and highlights the blatant bias that colors coverage of Israel related matters.
We note that some observers have interpreted Turkeys use of this occasion to reduce ties with Israel as a means for Turkey to enhance ties with Iran, which have been severely strained by Turkeys criticism of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. Others have said that Turkeys actions are consistent with the Islamist ideology advocated by Prime Minister Erdogans political party. Whatever the reason, Turkeys decision to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel is destructive and ill conceived, said Stone and Hoenlein.