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Israeli Trade With Turkey More Than Doubles in Past Five Years

Figures published by Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman on Saturday citing the Turkish Statistics Institute, reveal that despite the government’s official questioning stance of trade relations with Israel, business ties between the two countries are blooming. The mutual trade volume of the Middle Eastern countries reached over $5.6 billion in 2014—representing a nearly 50% increase over figures from 2009 ($2.6 billion)—despite a lengthy period of severe tensions between Israel and Turkey in those years, with a substantial diplomatic crisis triggered by the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid.

The flotilla, which was planning to sail from Cyprus to Gaza, breaking its naval siege, was stopped in international waters by Israeli naval commando operatives. The commandos boarded the ships, but encountered resistance from some of the passengers of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which escalated into a firefight that resulted in the deaths of nine of the ship’s passengers, eight of them Turkish nationals. Ten Israeli soldiers suffered injuries during the on-board riot.

But despite calls on both sides to sever economic ties, with some Israelis proclaiming, for example, they will no longer vacation in Turkey—a popular low-cost budget destination for Israelis—an organized boycott never materialized. In fact, the opposite happened, with Today’s Zaman reporting that Turkish exports to Israel jumped to $2.92 billion in 2014, in comparison to $1.5 billion in 2009. Imports from Israel also increased in the same period, jumping from $1.1 billion to $2.7 billion.

Faruk Lo?o?lu, a former Turkish ambassador to the U.S. and a deputy in the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Today’s Zaman that criticism of Israel among senior Turkish officials in the ruling AK Party is merely a form of populism. “The AK Party acts pragmatically with Israel as well as the U.S. and the European Union,” he said.

During Israel’s conflict with Hamas over the summer, members of Turkey’s opposition government demanded the government reconsider trade ties with Israel to express solidarity with Gaza. A Turkish diplomat who chairs Istanbul’s Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies however said that trade ties with Israel would continue to grow despite political tensions thanks of the country’s “liberal economy.”

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