Turkey rescinds relaxations on trade with Israel

Recep Tayyip Erdogan  credit: Shutterstock/Mr. Claret Red
Recep Tayyip Erdogan credit: Shutterstock/Mr. Claret Red

Comments by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz forced the Turkish government into denying reports of renewed exports of construction materials.

The Turkish Ministry of Trade circulated a directive among exporters of construction materials to Israel yesterday that they would be allowed to resume the trade for three months, despite the blanket ban announced by Turkey on exports to Israel. Reports in the Israeli press and media, however, and even more so the sharply worded announcement by Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz, led to the relaxation being rescinded.

Referring to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Katz said, "Erdogan backed down and cancelled many of the restrictions on trade, and the lesson is clear: there must be no surrender to the threats of a dictator, and we must create alternatives and not be dependent on someone from the Muslim Brotherhood who can stop everything at any moment."

Such an official statement forced the Turks to respond. "The statements of the Israeli foreign minister are absolutely fictional and have nothing to do with reality. We stand behind the decision we have taken as a government regarding trade with Israel. This decision remains valid," Turkish Minister of Trade Omer Bolat said on social media platform X.

Bolat said that the decision would remain in force until "conditions are met to stop Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, to achieve a permanent ceasefire and to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid."

It’s important to realize that the decision to halt trade between Turkey and Israel stems from purely political considerations, and the alarm in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) following its poor showing in recent local elections. Both the main opposition parties, the left-wing Republican People's Party and the Islamist New Welfare Party, called for a ban on trade with Israel long ago. Under the Turkish constitution, Erdogan is in his last term as president, but it is not clear that his successor, whichever party he comes from, will be more favorable to Israel.

The Turkish Communications Directorate, under Fahrettin Altun, who is close to Erdogan, described Katz’s statement and the reports in the Israeli media of a relaxation in the trade ban as fake news. Both sides are well aware that the Turkish Ministry of Trade circulated the document in such a way as to allow room for maneuver.

The upshot is that there has been no substantial change on the ground. It could be that if Israel allows Erdogan and Bolat and their people room for maneuver, there will be change. Meanhwile, goods are moving from Turkey to Israel, if in much lower volume than previously, either via third countries, or on ships that turn off their position reporting system until they are already westbound again from Israel. Turkish exporters would be very happy if trade were restored to its former levels, and so yesterday’s events may not be the end of the story.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 10, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan  credit: Shutterstock/Mr. Claret Red
Recep Tayyip Erdogan credit: Shutterstock/Mr. Claret Red
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