Turkey Envoy: ‘Israel’s Shameful Display Is Worst I’ve Ever Seen’


ANKARA (Ha’aretz) — The Turkish Foreign Ministry last Tuesday summoned Israeli Ambassador Gaby Levy for clarification, a day after the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem called in Ankara’s envoy to Israel for what the latter described to Army Radio as the most shameful experience of his 35-year career.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon did not intend to humiliate Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol by seating him in a lower chair without flag representation during their meeting.

Celikkol was called in regarding a recent Turkish television drama depicting actors dressed as Shin Bet officers who kidnap babies.
The Foreign Ministry stressed that it had summoned the envoy and ordered the seating arrangement to make clear that it would respond to any insult made by the Turkish leadership.

Three months ago, a similar diplomatic instance occurred between the two countries after Turkey aired the controversial television drama “Ayrilik” (“Separation”) which featured actors dressed as Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children.

During the meeting, Turkey’s ambassador was seated in a low sofa, and facing him, in higher chairs, were Ayalon and two other officials — an arrangement carried out at Lieberman’s orders.

A photo-op was held at the start of the meeting, during which Ayalon told the photographers in Hebrew: “Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair and we are in the higher ones, that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling.

Celikkol’s associates told Army Radio on Tuesday, that the meeting with Ayalon was “the most shameful display” he had seen in 35 years as a diplomat.
According to the associates, Celikkol had no idea what the topic of conversation was to be when first seated. When the cameras left the room, the sources said, the meeting was normal and professional.

“Had the ambassador understood Ayalon’s intentions, which were only expressed in Hebrew, he would have responded in kind,” the source told Army Radio.

Meanwhile, ministry sources said Monday that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was trying to stop Defense Minister Ehud Barak from visiting to Turkey next week, in order to keep up the recent tensions between the two allied countries.

Barak was scheduled to leave for Turkey on Sunday to meet with his counterpart and the foreign minister there, in an attempt to improve deteriorating relations.

Tensions were renewed on Monday, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that Israel was endangering world peace by using exaggerated force against the Palestinians, breaching Lebanon’s air space and waters and for not revealing the details of its nuclear program.

According to Foreign Ministry sources, Lieberman is now looking to “heat things up” before Barak’s trip, so as to torpedo attempts to mend the tensions.
“We get the sense that Lieberman wants to heat things up before Barak’s visit,” a senior Foreign Ministry source said. “All of the recent activities were part of Lieberman’s political agenda.”

The Turkish government was expected to give a warm welcome to Barak, who alongside Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was looking to bring the allies’ relations back to stability.

The Foreign Ministry sources surmised that Lieberman’s efforts were aimed at preventing Turkey from resuming its role as mediator in Israel’s peace talks with Syria.