Israel’s oil imports have continued to pass through Turkey despite the near collapse of relations between the two countries over the uncompromising military operations mounted by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip in response to the Hamas cross-border massacre committed three weeks ago.
The Seaviolet, an oil tanker registered in Malta, recently transported 1mn barrels of Azerbaijani crude from Turkey’s Mediterranean oil hub port of Ceyhan to Israel’s Eilat Port, according to a report by Bloomberg. Around 40% of Israel’s annual oil consumption is met by crude that is piped to Ceyhan for onward shipping.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the weekend during a “Great Palestine Rally” in Istanbul accused Israel of being a “war criminal”—though he stands accused of committing war crimes himself given the Turkish military’s bombing of Kurdish-held areas of northeast Syria—while on October 25 he declared that Hamas were not terrorists as they were “a liberation group, 'mujahideen' waging a battle to protect its lands and people”.
Israel responded by recalling its diplomatic staff from Turkey for a re-evaluation of relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.
Prior to Erdogan’s sharpest rhetoric against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the backing it has received from the US and other Western nations, Western brands including McDonald’s and Starbucks were already dealing with Turkish consumer backlashes.
The fact that Turkey has continued to allow the shipping of oil to Israel, however, should perhaps not cause too much surprise given the realities of politics and business.
As bne IntelliNews wrote back in November 2022, when Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu held a new term of office phone call with Erdogan: “Netanyahu has to regularly kill some Palestinians to remain in power. Erdogan’s gambit is to issue harsh words and yell his ire. It works a treat in relaxing the masses who get angry over the global silence that meets Israel’s murderous actions against the Palestinians.
“‘Once he [Erdogan] used to call me Hitler every three hours, now it’s every six hours but thank God trade [with Turkey] is up,’ Netanyahu said in 2020, describing the international relations game between him and Erdogan.”
Unicef executive director Catherine Russell, addressing the UN’s security council on October 30, said more than 420 children were being killed or injured in Gaza each day in the Israeli offensive. It was, she said, “a number which should shake each of us to our core”.
Gaza’s health ministry said that more than 3,400 Palestinian children were among the 8,300 killed in Gaza as a consequence of Israel’s attack since October 7. That was the day that Hamas mounted its bloody attack on Israel, killing around 1,400 people, mainly civilians and including many children.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel are now in danger of sinking to the lows seen in 2010, when an Israeli raid on a Turkish aid ship to Gaza resulted in 10 civilian deaths. Prior to the Gaza crisis, Erdogan and Netanyahu were moving towards sealing a rapprochement between their two nations.