The continuation of trade exchange with Israel angers the Turkish street

The continuation of trade exchange with Israel angers the Turkish street

The Turkish political scene has witnessed a rise in criticism directed towards the government, with several political parties and humanitarian organizations organizing sit-ins and protests demanding an immediate suspension of exports to Israel.

This is a response to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, which has directly impacted the Turkish streets. Citizens took a bold step by blocking the path of Minister of Labor Vedat Aşçı last week, demanding the termination of trade relations with Israel and calling for the closure of ports to its ships as a pressure tactic.

Additionally, a group of citizens staged a demonstration in front of the headquarters of “Zorlu Holding,” one of Turkey’s leading investment companies operating in the energy sector with a strong presence in Israel, with investments there exceeding one billion dollars.

Turks have urged their government to take strict measures against this company, calling for its closure or pressuring it to sever its commercial ties with Israel.

Political recruitment

Politically, trade relations between Turkey and Israel have seen increasing scrutiny as a tool in domestic disagreements, especially with the upcoming local elections scheduled for March 31st.

Opposition parties have used this issue as a basis to criticize President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, viewing it as a means to undermine “the government’s exploitation of the Palestinian issue as a winning card in domestic politics.”

The government has not shown significant responsiveness to these accusations, with the concerned ministries’ reactions limited to statements indicating a slowdown in trade with Israel, without delving into deep debate on the issue.

The Ministry of Trade recently denied reports by some media outlets regarding an increase in exports to Israel at the beginning of the current year. It clarified that trade relations with Tel Aviv “are not limited to Jewish areas only but also include 2.2 million Palestinians living inside Israel, in addition to residents of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.”

It added that “all goods sent to Palestinian areas must pass through Israeli customs points and ports and be registered under Israel’s name.”

Minister of Trade Omar Bolat stated in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that trade between Ankara and Tel Aviv had decreased by over 50% from October 7th to December 4th of last year, and this decline is ongoing.

Tension and Decline:
According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute, exports to Israel decreased from $489 million in October 2022 to $348 million in October 2023, while imports from Israel during the same period decreased from $241 million to $99 million.

Official data from the Turkish Ministry of Transport showed that since October 7th last year, 701 Turkish ships headed towards Israel, with an average of 8 ships per day. Of this number, 480 ships directly traveled between Ankara and Israel, while 221 ships passed through Turkey to Israel, representing a 30% decrease in the total volume of ships heading to Israeli ports compared to the previous year.

The aggression on Gaza, accompanied by the resulting tension in bilateral relations, has led to mutual popular boycott campaigns, resulting in a decrease in trade between the two countries from October 7th to December 31st, 2023, to approximately $1.3 billion, a decline of 45% compared to 2022.

By the end of November last year, Israeli media reports revealed that Turkey had excluded Israel from the list of targeted export destinations, indicating that Turkish support for companies engaged in business dealings with Tel Aviv might cease.

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