TEL AVIV ø Israel's national air carrier, El Al, has canceled all flights
to and from Turkey due to an escalating dispute over security.
The move on Thursday was ordered by the Israel Security Agency that
had determined that Turkey's security arrangements were unsafe for Israeli
passengers. Officials said the next step would be to cancel flights to
Israel by the state-owned Turkish Airways.
For years, Turkey has allowed Israel to deploy its security agents and
special detection equipment at Istanbul airport. Over the last few months,
Turkish officials have warned that this arrangement would not be to
continued, Middle East Newsline reported.
In early June, Turkish authorities refused to renew the work permits of
dozens of Israeli security officers who work in Istanbul airport. About
350,000 Israelis per year ø the lion's share being tourists ø travel to
"We have both a security and a diplomatic crisis here," an Israeli
official said. "It is obvious that the [Turkish] political leadership
refused to defuse the situation. I think the Foreign Ministry understands
Officials said they were concerned that the security crisis was a result
of a declining political relationship between Ankara and Jerusalem. They
cited Turkey's severe criticism of Israel's war against Palestinian
insurgents and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's warning that Israel's policy
could lead to an upsurge in anti-Semitism.
Hours before El Al suspended its flights to and from Istanbul, Turkey
was rocked by a series of bombings in major cities in which four people were
killed. Israeli officials said the suspension of the El Al flights was not
connected to the bombings.