Settlements, strikes mar first ministerial visit to Israel in 7 years
REUTERS photoThe extension of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and air strikes on Gaza have overshadowed the first ever ministerial-level visit from Turkey to Israel since relations deteriorated in 2010.
Turkey’s visiting culture and tourism minister, Nabi Avcı, urged the Israeli Supreme Court to adhere to international law after a Knesset decision to retrospectively legalize settlements in the West Bank, while Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said the decision was the correct decision within the standards of democracy.
“I would not like to interfere further between the government and the Supreme Court, but I hope that the Supreme Court will reach the correct decision, which is in line with international law and the decisions of the United Nations,” Avcı said Feb. 7 in Tel Aviv alongside Levin.
The Israeli parliament passed a law on Feb. 6 that will retroactively permit the expropriation of private Palestinian land.
For his part, Levin said parliament had openly put forth its decision and that it was the “right decision.”
“This law has been passed democratically. Laws pass like this; this is how things work in democracies. I hope that the Israeli Supreme Court will accept this democratic decision and will not do things that are not within its right,” Levin said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a fourth condemnation on Israel’s settlement projects in less than two weeks on Feb. 7.
“We strongly condemn the Israeli Parliament’s adoption of a law that gives approval to various settlements consisting of 4,000 units built on the private property of the Palestinians,” a written statement by the Foreign Ministry said.
U.N. envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov said the bill set a “very dangerous precedent.”
“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset [parliament] legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” Mladenov told AFP.
Another topic on the agenda of the two ministers was Israel’s series of strikes against the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Feb. 6 after a rocket fired from the enclave hit an Israeli border area, causing no injuries.
Avcı said he did not believe Hamas would “attempt such a thing when I am in Tel Aviv,” adding that he would have experts look into the details of the issue.
“But let me tell you this, we are here today so that acts do not take place,” Avcı said.
Avcı’s visit to Israel marks a first in seven years when after Israeli commandoes raided a Gaza-bound flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, on May 31, 2010, killing a total of 10 Turkish citizens who were on the boat to break the blockade on Gaza and bring aid to locals there.
Relations came to a halt for many years until discussions in 2015 and 2016 resulted in a rapprochement in mid-2016.
Both of the ministers also called for an increase in touristic relations between the two countries.