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JERUSALEM-A further downturn in diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel came today as Turkey announced it would be formally expelling Israel ambassador and also be suspending military agreements.
This comes at a time when Israel is facing increasing isolation in the middle eastern community. Last week, Egypt’s military led interim government threatened to recall its ambassador over the killing of three Egyptian soldiers during a cross boarder incursion. Israel quickly apologized in that incident.
This threatened downgrade comes after Israel’s refusal to publicly apologize for the killing of nine Turkish activists taking part in the pro-Palestinian flotilla that attempted to break through the Israeli blockade in May of 2010. Immediately after that incident, Turkey recalled their ambassador to Israel.
Turkey’s threats to relations with Israel come despite efforts by the United Stated to help reconcile relations between the two U.S. allies. It also coincides with the pending release of the United Nations commission’s probe into the incident. That commisssion report says that the blockade by Israel was legitimate, but that Israel used excessive force while seizing control of the vessel “Mavi Marmara.” That report has been delayed for months, hoping that the two countries would reconcile, but it is scheduled to be released later today.
Turkey issued an ultimatum on Thursday, giving Israel 24 hours to apologize. Even though Israel has offered to privately pay compensation for the incident, it still stubbornly refuses to give apology publicly. It does not seem as if an apology will be forthcoming, as hard-liners in Netanyahu’s coalition have said any public apology would be a show of weakness on Israel’s part.
Turkish officials have hinted recently that they might impose economic sanctions, file legal actions against Israel in international courts and assist Palestinians in their upcoming U.N. bid for statehood recognition. This is sure to further chill relations between the two countries.