Within the next few weeks, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog is expected to travel to Istanbul to meet with his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Israeli officials have described this visit as signaling warmer relations between the two countries, despite Erdogan’s longstanding and forceful criticisms of the Jewish state. Ruthie Blum argues that this effort is misguided, noting, among other things, Turkey’s condemnation of the Abraham Accords. To illustrate her point, Blum notes the recent imprisonment of an Israeli couple vacationing in Turkey, who “were slapped with the bogus charge of espionage for taking a photo of the presidential palace.”
Immediately before their detention, the husband and wife from Modi’in had made a video lauding their holiday venue. “Turkey is fun. It’s safe. You can speak Hebrew freely here; . . . . they love us. Come on over,” they said on camera with great cheer.
Since the harrowing ordeal, they’ve changed their view of the country and its “safety” for Israelis. Their government should do the same when it comes to trusting Erdogan.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spent days appealing to Erdogan to intervene. Each begged him to persuade Turkish law enforcement to release the Oknins from custody, on the grounds that they weren’t Mossad agents. But Erdogan excels at capitalizing on a crisis of his own making.