Erdogan, ignoring statistics that dropped to sixth place for Israeli exports, says his country does not need Israeli tourists.
Nine Turkish citizens were killed after they ambushed Navy commandos with knives and clubs, severely wounding several and kidnapping three until other commandos rescued them and overtook the ship.
Erdogan has not forgotten the clash and still blames Israel, despite a United Nations report that Israel was within its right to try to stop the six-ship flotilla from reaching Hamas terrorist-controlled Gaza.
“We don’t need Israeli tourists in Turkey and we don’t feel their absence,” Erdogan told journalists from two Israeli newspapers, Yediot Acharonot and Maariv during a reception in Istanbul yesterday.
“We have replaced Israeli tourists with other tourists and last year we had 31 million tourists,” he declared.
He said relations with Israel, which once flourished, can resume to their former level only if and when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologizes for the clash. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman previously has said that if anyone should apologize, it should be Turkey.
Erdogan insisted, “Only if Israel apologizes for IDF soldiers boarding the Marmara and killing Turkish activists, and pays compensation to the families of the dead, and removes the terrible blockade on Gaza, will I be ready to meet with the Israeli prime minister, and perhaps normalize relations between the countries.”
Turkey’s relations with Israel began to go sour during the IDF Operation Cast Lead campaign against Hamas terrorists, when Erdogan did an about-face, siding with Hamas and warming up to both Hamas and Syria, which he now has distanced following the brutal suppression of civilians by the Assad regime.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu