BY METEHAN DEMIR
From The Jerusalem Post
ANKARA–Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s remarks that Israel is carrying out a "genocide" against Palestinians has led to a serious crisis between the two strategic allies.
On Thursday–Ecevit said at a meeting of his party that not only PA Chairman Yasser Arafat but the whole Palestinian nation is being destroyed step by step–adding that genocide against the Palestinian people is being carried out before the eyes of the world.
Israel has launched simultaneous diplomatic initiatives in Ankara and Tel Aviv to protest Ecevit’s remarks linking Israel’s use of force to the genocide term.
Israel has asked Ankara for an "explanation" of the commen’s–warning that Ecevit’s announcement could affect relations between the countries.
After Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem also warned that ties may be affected by the "genocide" comment–Ecevit said his words were misunderstood. They merely reflect his concerns over the events in the Middle East–he added.
This did not satisfy Israel–according to Foreign Ministry sources who said they were deeply disappointed.
Following Ecevit’s statement–Turkish military and diplomatic circles assured Israel that Turkey has no plan to change its friendly policy vis–vis Israel.
During his meeting with his Danish counterpart on Friday–Ecevit noted that Turkey attaches great importance to ties with Israel–and said he does not mean that the Israeli public is committing genocide. Ecevit also said Sunday that he does not want to disappoint or upset the Israeli people by his use of the term.
American Jewish lobbies–known for their support of Turkey in the face of Armenian and Greek lobbies in Washington–are preparing to voice their concerns to Turkey. They reportedly delivered a message to the Turkish Embassy in Washington decrying Ecevit’s statemen’s. They added that the commen’s are particularly unseemly in consideration of their attempts to defend Turkey from Armenian claims of genocide–and in light of the Jewish genocide suffered at the hand of the Nazis.
Last year–Jewish-American lobbies played a key role in stopping a Congressional bill foreseeing an Armenian genocide law–urging US authorities to allow arms sales for Turkey.
A key member of a prominent Jewish-American organization told The Jerusalem Post that his organization plan to write a letter to voice their disapproval.
The minor storm will not affect the recently signed deal for TAAS-Israel Military Industries to modernize 170 of Turkey’s M-60 tanks–despite a public outcry raised in protest of the ongoing Israeli operations.
High-level Turkish military and diplomatic sources told the Post that a line should be drawn between being emotional and being a professional in ties with Israel–a key ally since 1996.
At mid-week–Ecevit and his defense minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu in mid-week said that canceling the vital $670 million deal is not an option.
A senior diplomatic official said that criticizing Israel is a must for the ongoing operation–but keeping strong ties with the ally is also vital for Turkey.
Meanwhile–Israel has declared that it will not participate in the upcoming three-way Anatolian Eagle joint military exercises with the United States in Turkey due to technical problems.
Turkey and Israel are still working to jointly produce Popeye II air-to-ground missiles as they prepare to start the Arrow II program with the approval of the US–in a further move to build a joint missile defense shield.
Israel is currently upgrading Turkey’s 54 F-4 and 48 F-5 jets under a nearly $1 billion deal.