In a development that has dealt a severe blow to the worsening relations with Israel, Turkey will put four former Israeli military commanders, including the head of the army, on trial in absentia this week for the 2010 killing of nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship.
Israeli relations with Turkey, its once close Muslim ally, has been going downhill since the Israeli commanders stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip killing nine Turks in clashes on board.
So far, the worsening ties has resulted in the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, a downgrading of bilateral security and intelligence cooperation and a near-complete disconnect between the two nations, Haaretz has said in a report.
Turkey, the only Muslim country which didn’t draw flak from the anti-Zionists in Middle East including Iran for its Israeli-ties, was once slated to have served as a mediator between Israel and the Arab nations.
The bilateral ties, however, has deteriorated so much so that on Oct. 29, when Turkey celebrated its independence day in its embassies and consulates around the world, the country’s Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomats not to invite Israelis to the official ceremonies, though local Jewish representatives were welcome, Haaretz reported.
According to the report, this is the second time Turkish ambassadors have been officially ordered not to invite Israelis while the Jewish state also had previously instructed its ambassadors to snub Turkish diplomats during the official ceremonies and receptions.
The trial of Israel’s former Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy Commander Eliezer Marom, former Air Force Commander Amos Yadlin and former head of Air Force intelligence Avishay Levi is slated to begin in an Istanbul court Tuesday.
The 144-page indictment against the commanders includes the charges "inciting murder through cruelty or torture" and "inciting injury with firearms,” Reuters has reported.
Israel condemned the trial as “propaganda display” which had “nothing to do with either law or justice.”
"The 'Blue Marmara Trial' due to commence on November 6th in Istanbul, clearly falls under the category of a Show Trial; an act which has nothing to do with either law or justice," Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"This ‘Trial’ does not qualify under any facet or foundation of a lawful judicial system, and is merely a propaganda display. It would be in Turkey's interest to deal with this issue through bilateral dialogue," it said.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not comment on the trial saying the matter was sub judice.
Israel maintains the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) commanders acted on self-defense after they came under attack by the Turks, but a U.N. inquiry had found that Israel's decision to board the ship and the use of substantial force was "excessive and unreasonable."
Though Turkey won’t be able to enforce the verdict of the trial, the decision highlights the lack of efforts from both the nations and from the U.S. to mend the ties, at a critical time when their interests in the region converge.
Relations between Turkey and Syria have been tumultuous with Ankara concerned about a spillover from the Syrian civil war and has backed away from its friendship with Iran, the key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and adversary of Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July said Israel and Turkey were looking at ways to normalize political relations.
“In a region where instability reigns, Israel and Turkey are two quite stable countries,” Netanyahu said.
However, Netanyahu refuses to offer an apology for the deaths of Turkish activists.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon maintain that Israel and Turkey do not have identical interests regarding the crisis in Syria, claiming Turkey hopes for a Muslim Brotherhood government post-Assad with an ideological affinity with its AKP party.