Spat or not, Turkey still using Israeli tech in attacks on Kurdish PKK rebels
Turkish military continues to operate Israeli-made drones, despite recent political tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem; Turkish sources say no decision has been made to formally freeze defense deals with Israel.
The rhetoric from Turkey's prime minister and reports from Turkey on a freeze of deals with Israeli defense contractors have not kept the Turkish army from using Israeli technology against the Kurdish PKK rebels inside Iraq.
According to Turkish sources, the Turkish army has been using Israeli-made drones to locate members of the PKK, an organization on Ankara's list of terrorist groups.
Turkey reported late last week that during operations in May, its forces killed some 130 Kurdish militants in Iraqi territory; it described this as an impressive achievement against terrorism.
But yesterday it turned out that Turkey's gains have been limited, as 10 Turkish soldiers were killed in attacks by the PKK over the weekend. Eight were killed in an attack near a Turkish border town with Iraq and two by a roadside bomb detonated as they patrolled the border.
Since March, when PKK attacks resumed, 43 Turkish soldiers have lost their lives in the fighting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said "foreign elements" are behind the Kurdish attacks on the Turkish army, but has not given details. He says the PKK has become a subcontractor for foreign interests.
Following Israel's raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, Turkish analysts close to the regime have blamed Israel for encouraging the Kurds to attack the Turkish army as revenge for Ankara's support for the flotilla's organizers.
No decision on freezing deals
Meanwhile, official Turkish sources say no decision has been made to formally freeze deals with Israel.
They say a government committee that discussed the issue last week has decided to leave the matter to the Turkish defense industry to decide. Many of these companies are either government-owned or co-owned with private firms.
Turkish sources say there is a dispute between the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which does not want steps to be taken against Israel, and people in the governing Justice and Development Party who want such pressure.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says it is still too early to discuss sanctions. He has, however, backed calls for an international inquiry into the flotilla incident.
He also wants an Israeli apology for the killing of Turkish citizens, compensation for their families and a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. All these would be preconditions for restoring full ties with Israel.
Davutoglu is aware of the pressure that congressmen, with the encouragement of the Jewish lobby, are putting on the Obama administration to cool relations with Ankara, as well as comments in the European Union that Turkey appears to have "abandoned the West."
"Turkey does not want to lose what it gained on the international front from the flotilla incident," a source at the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Haaretz. "But it is important to remember that the prime minister is operating on the basis of internal political considerations, not only a cool analysis of Turkish interests on the international level."