Israeli Diplomat in Turkey Accused of Calling for Netanyahu's Ouster

The Foreign Ministry has launched an investigation into the alleged remarks at a luncheon in Istanbul, which the diplomat, Israel's charge d'affaires in Ankara, has denied.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Israel's charge d'affaires in Turkey, Amira Oron, prior to a Republic Day ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, October 29, 2016.
Binnur Ege Gurun, Anadolu Agency / AFP

The Foreign Ministry is investigating allegations that Israel’s temporary charge d’affaires in Ankara, Amira Oron, called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ouster during a meeting with lawmakers and officials from the Turkish Jewish community.

According to a senior Israeli diplomat, the incident is being treated with the utmost severity and could result in Oron’s recall to Jerusalem.

The alleged incident took place on Friday at a lunch for visiting MKs Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) and Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Union), who were in Turkey for an annual NATO parliamentary assembly. The event was also attended by the Jewish-community officials and Israel’s deputy consul general to Turkey, Shira Ben Tzion.

On Sunday, Shai Cohen, Israel’s envoy to Ankara, sent a complaint about Oron to ministry officials including the acting director general, Yuval Rotem. The complaint was based on Ben Tzion’s account of the events.

According to senior officials who requested anonymity, Oron spoke in an unusual way about Israeli politics during the lunch.

Oron denies this; she accuses Ben Tzion of seeking revenge for a confrontation a few hours earlier. In that clash, Oron threatened to report Ben Tzion for allegedly overstepping her authority, a senior ministry official said.

“These things never happened and I do not speak in such a way,” Oron said.

According to the complaint, Oron said Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister must be brought to an end, and since it seems Netanyahu cannot be ousted by an election, legal means should be used.

The complaint accuses Oron of citing the controversy over an Israeli submarine purchase and the alleged conflict of interest involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer.

It adds that Levy and Bar-Lev were outraged at Oron’s comments and said a democratic election was the only way to replace an Israeli prime minister.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said he expected Oron to be summoned to Jerusalem to give her version of events.    

The ministry opened an inquiry into the matter Monday; ministry officials spoke to a number of people who attended the lunch. They said a few participants confirmed Ben Tzion’s account, while others denied Oron had made the remarks attributed to her.

Speaking to Haaretz, Bar-Lev first said he did not remember what happened at the meal but later said Oron did not make the controversial remarks about Netanyahu.

Similarly, Levy said a discussion on Israeli politics took place at the lunch but denied that Oron said what was attributed to her.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the matter was being examined by the relevant ministries.