Why did Türkiye introduce a trade ban on Israel?
    Critical appraisal

    ANALYTICS  31 May 2024 - 14:18

    Fuad Shahbazov

    After the most recent Israeli air strike on the Rafah camp, many countries in the West and Middle East issued harsh critical statements citing the significant number of killed civilians, including children, during the attack. Leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Iran, and Türkiye condemned the attack, while the United States (US) suggested that Israel did not cross its red lines. The President of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during his recent speech, blasted Israel over its attack against Rafah, which was previously designated as a "safe area."

    Unlike other countries, Türkiye became a staunch critic of Israel since the launch of a ground operation in the Gaza Strip against Hamas following the October 7 terrorist attacks. Ankara's close ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood became a key pillar of its approach toward the Hamas–Israel war, which also led to Tel Aviv's criticism of Türkiye. However, despite the halt of diplomatic relations, Türkiye and Israel were in no rush to sever trade links since the start of the war, which also boosted discontent among conservative parties within Türkiye.

    As a result, in May 2024, Ankara announced a trade ban on Israel, reportedly after Israel’s refusal to allow Turkish planes to airdrop aid into Gaza as the primary impetus. The Turkish Ministry of Trade outlined 54 categories of goods, which include items such as iron, marble, steel, cement, aluminum, bricks, fertilizer, construction equipment, and aviation fuel that will be subjected to the export ban. In 2022, iron and steel topped the list of Turkish exports to Israel and were together worth $1.19 billion, according to data compiled by Trading Economics. In second place were vehicles ($562.98 million), followed by plastic ($516.24 million) and electronic equipment ($384.59 million). Hence, the complete shutdown of trade between the two countries came as a shock to many.

    In 2023, Türkiye was Israel’s fourth-largest trading partner, responsible for billions of dollars of exports to Israel. As the world’s seventh-largest food producer, Türkiye has been the main source of some staples consumed in Israel, including pasta and chocolate. According to the previous data, trade between the two countries stood at $7 billion in 2023. Due to its close geographical proximity, competitive production costs, and quality products, Türkiye has emerged as a preferred exporter to Israel in the past couple of years.

    Consequently, the diplomatic relations between the two states had long been unstable, with a number of crises and mutual accusations. Since the first serious rupture of diplomatic relations between the two nations in 2010, Türkiye adopted a more pro-Palestinian policy and began sheltering Hamas leaders on its soil and providing them with political and financial support. However, the absence of diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv did not allow Ankara to exert more influence over the Palestinian cause and implement key policy priorities. Therefore, in 2022, Ankara decided to normalize ties with Israel in order to keep the door open for future opportunities.

    Moreover, Türkiye's approach toward the war in Gaza is complicated by the US' full support of Israel in terms of diplomatic and military assistance. On the one hand, Türkiye seeks deeper ties with the US to get approval for its military operation in northern Syria and Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization; on the other hand, it criticizes the Biden administration for not interfering in the war and putting pressure on Israel.

    In addition to foreign policy paradigms, the domestic discontent of conservative parties in Türkiye and the most recent victory of the main opposition party in municipal elections also forced Ankara to step back and introduce a full ban on Israel. The Turkish public has overwhelmingly sided with the Palestinians and is eager for political actors who will demand tougher policies toward Israel. After all, they have watched the Gaza crisis almost exclusively through the prism of Israel’s military operations—Hamas violence has been largely absent from Turkish television screens.

    In this vein, Türkiye will maintain a harsh anti-Israeli campaign amid Israeli force's ongoing operation in Gaza against Hamas terrorists.

    Caliber.Az

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