According to a report by Hebrew-language Channel 10, citing Israeli officials with knowledge of the situation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the foreign ministers of Greece and Cyprus last month that he was “pessimistic” about Turkey’s future under “reckless” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While discussing the laying of a joint Israel-Cyprus-Greece East-Med gas pipeline, Netanyahu allegedly warned the diplomats that the Turkish president might disrupt their natural gas drilling operations in the Mediterranean.
“Erdogan is unpredictable and reckless. We’re worried and watching to see if he does something in the region [about the gas]… I’m pessimistic,” Netanyahu purportedly said.
“No Intelligence Cooperation” Between Turkey and Israel
The Israeli prime minister allegedly referred to a diplomatic row between Ankara and Tel Aviv in May, when Turkey ordered Israel’s ambassador to leave the country, while Israel hit back by announcing the expulsion of the Turkish consul in Jerusalem.
According to Channel 10, Netanyahu said that the spat had halted bilateral intelligence coordination between the two nations:
“Turkey wanted to advance reconciliation with Israel two years ago because of the situation in Syria. Now [after the removal of the Israeli ambassador to Ankara] there isn’t even intelligence cooperation with Turkey on Syria,” Netanyahu reportedly said.
“Trump Won’t Ease Up Pressure” on Turkey
He purportedly proceeded to tell the Cypriot and Greek colleagues that he didn’t believe that relations between Ankara and Washington, marred by the continuing detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson accused of terrorism in Turkey, would improve after the midterm elections in the United States.
“Erdogan is making economic decisions that make no sense. The situation there is getting worse. […] Trump won’t ease up pressure,” he reportedly told the foreign ministers, adding that he had agreed to help the two countries put their relations back on track.
According to Channel 10’s report, Netanyahu also weighed in on Turkey’s deal with the United States to purchase F-35 fighter jets, while having bought S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia.
“It’s an oxymoron that a member of NATO has [Russian] S-400 missiles. I’m worried about them having F-35 planes,” he reportedly said.
Currently, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to possess the US F-35s.
“Erdogan Calls Me Hitler Every Two Weeks”
The Israeli prime minister, who has on numerous occasions been engaged in a war of words with the Turkish president, ostensibly said that Turkey was “becoming undemocratic” under Erdogan and allegedly made a reference to his controversial comments about Netanyahu:
“Turkey is becoming undemocratic. Erdogan calls me ‘Hitler’ every two weeks. Its’s a systematic problem – I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
In July, Erdogan and Netanyahu clashed over new legislation defining Israel as a Jewish state, with the Turkish president saying that “Hitler’s spirit” was resurgent among some Israeli officials.
“The Israeli administration’s view to identify those ancient lands as belonging to Jews alone is no different from Hitler’s obsession with the Aryan race. The Hitler spirit, which dragged the world into a major disaster, has risen again among some Israeli officials,” he said at a meeting with lawmakers from his Justice and Development Party.
Netanyahu, for his part, retaliated by claiming that Turkey was becoming a “dark dictatorship”:
“The fact that the great ‘democrat’ Erdogan is attacking the nation state law is the greatest compliment for this law. Turkey, under Erdogan’s rule, is becoming a dark dictatorship…” the Israeli prime minister hit back.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained since the beginning of the Palestinians’ Great Return March in the Gaza Strip, which rapidly turned violent, climaxing on the day of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. As a result of clashes between the Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces on May 14, at least 60 protesters were killed and over 2,400 injured.