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78 pc of Israelis view Turkey as enemy

world Updated: Jun 10, 2010 14:55 IST

AFP
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Some 78 per cent of Jewish Israelis now view Turkey, once Israel's only Muslim ally in the Middle East, as an enemy nation, according to a poll published on Thursday.

The sharp switch in public attitude towards Turkey comes in the wake of a May 31 raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, which left nine Turkish activists dead.

The poll, published in the pro-government Yisrael Hayom daily, asked participants: "Do you believe that in light of recent events Turkey has become an enemy state?"

It said 78 per cent of those surveyed answered yes, while 22 per cent said no.

In the 1990s, the two nations developed close military and economic links and have held frequent joint military drills and signed a free trade agreement. Turkey had also become a favourite holiday destination for Israelis.

But the ties have declined rapidly amid vehement Turkish criticism of the devastating offensive which Israel launched against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and Ankara's improving ties with Tehran.

And relations virtually broke down following the flotilla raid.

Turkey recalled its ambassador and scrapped joint military drills, saying economic and defence ties with Israel would be reduced to a "minimum level".

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said this week that normalisation of ties with Israel was out of the question if it rejects an international inquiry into the deadly raid on the aid flotilla.

The poll said that only 13 per cent of Jewish Israelis favour an international commission, while 71 per cent prefer an internal Israeli inquiry.

The poll by the New Wave Research group surveyed 561 people and had a margin of error of 4 per cent. It did not take into account the views of Israel's Arab minority, which makes up about 1.3 million of Israel's 7.4 million citizens.

The poll also indicated that 91 per cent of Jewish Israelis believed Israel should stop future flotillas trying to breach its Gaza blockade. Five per cent were opposed and four per cent had no answer, the poll said.

Israel, together with Egypt, first imposed the closures on the Gaza Strip after the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas and other militants in a deadly cross-border raid in June 2006 and tightened the sanctions when the Islamist group seized power in Gaza a year later.