Türkiye Shuts Down All Trade With Israel Over Gaza Humanitarian Aid Restrictions

ON 05/03/2024 AT 02 : 36 AM

Effective immediately, Türkiye is blockading all ports of access for any trade with Israel. It could immediately threaten Israel’s construction industry.
Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan of Türkiye
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan speaks to reporters on May 2, 2024, about the country's 100% trade embargo on all imports from and exports to Israel. Tukieye Foreign Ministry television news feed (FAIR USE)

After supplying Israel with a wide range of goods and services since the start of the genocide last year, the Foreign Ministry of Türkiye finally announced the decision to stop that support yesterday in a statement declaring that, "Export and import transactions related to Israel have been stopped, covering all products”.

As explanation, the statement continued, saying that they were doing this after a thorough investigation and review of the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in Gaza, with particular attention to Israel’s continuing denial of free humanitarian aid access into Gaza.

This denial was cited in separate statements as happening despite directives from the International Court of Justice and the United Nations, each on multiple occasions this year, to allow far more food, water, medical, and humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian people of Gaza.

"Türkiye will strictly and decisively implement these new measures until the Israeli Government allows an uninterrupted and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza,” the new statement from the Foreign Ministry explained.

This decision comes on slightly less than a month after the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan notified Israel it was imposing tight export limitations on 54 categories of products it has routinely been shipping to Israel for years. Many of those cutbacks were on construction materials including iron, aluminum, and steel building supplies, sanitation systems pipes and subsystems, and construction equipment. Jet fuel, which zionist forces use now in extreme quantities in Gaza and beyond, was also on that initial list.

Those initial trade restrictions went into place on April 9.

According to Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, the country made the decision to limit Israel’s access to these critical supplies after Israel denied Türkiye permission to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza by air. This was despite the meagre aid which had already being allowed into Gaza by air from Jordan, the United States, and the United Kingdom for months.

"Today we learned that our request, which was welcomed by the Jordanian authorities, was rejected by Israel," the foreign minister said on April 8 during a press conference, one of just a few which he had ever held just by himself. “There can be no excuse for Israel's prevention of airdropping aid to starving Gaza. In response to this, we have decided to take a series of new measures against Israel.”

Fidan emphasized that despite his being the only one present at the press event, these restraints on exports were backed in full by President Erdoğan.

Up to this point, Türkiye was always one of the most generous countries in providing humanitarian aid for Gazans since the October 7 phase of Israel’s war on Hamas began. As of the time these first trade restrictions were announced, Türkiye was the second biggest supplier of food, water, medicine, and more to the Gaza Strip, and had already delivered over 42 tons of those supplies to the region.

On April 9, even as Foreign Minister Fidan revealed his country’s partial trade restrictions, a ninth Turkish aid ship was on its way to Gaza with many more tons of aid.

The day Fidan made that first announcement, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz verbally fired back at Fidan via social media.

“Erdoğan is once again sacrificing the economic interests of the people of Türkiye for his support of the Hamas murderers in Gaza,” Katz wrote in his official account on the social media platform X. “Israel will not submit to violence and blackmail and will not condone the unilateral violation of the trade agreements.”

“We will take parallel measures against Türkiye,” he promised.

“In the same post, Katz also said Israel would “approach states and organizations in the United States to halt investments in Türkiye and prevent the import of products from Türkiye.”

Further, knowing the iron fist control Israel holds over most American politicians, Katz added that, “I encourage our friends in Congress to examine the violation of embargo laws and impose sanctions on Türkiye.”

Those sanctions have not yet happened, but the current full shutdown of all of Türkiye’s trade with Israel could trigger such a reassessment, despite that the United States is not the injured party in this dispute.

On May 2 after the Turkish foreign minister declared all trade with Israel shut down in its entirety, Israeli Foreign Minister Katz was once again among the first to react to the decision.

Katz said the president of Türkiye was now liable for “breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports”.

“This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen, and ignoring international trade agreements,” Katz continued.

Türkiye’s total bilateral trade with Israel totaled approximately U.S. $6.8 billion in 2023. Exports to Israel were the largest fraction of that, amounting to $5.4 billion – or 79% – of all business conducted between the two nations.

The $6.8 billion figure does not include any monies spent on humanitarian aid for Gaza.

The lost business means far less to Türkiye than it does to Israel, considering that the $5.4 billion in exports is equivalent to just 2.1% of Türkiye total exports last year. On the other hand, Israel currently depends on Türkiye for 70% of its iron construction materials and approximately 30% of its cement needs.

Israel is currently scrambling to find other suppliers for the goods Türkiye will no longer be sending to Israel for the indefinite future. It may have bigger challenges with that than many had previously expected. Two of the country’s other primary suppliers for important goods, Ireland and Norway, are reportedly considering instituting their own boycott of routine trade shipments to Israel.

There are also concerns that many countries and companies internationally have already begun to cut back on trade with Israel – as a matter of policy – over its brutal slaughter of over 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), commented about this when Türkiye began reducing shipments to Israel of 54 important products a month ago.

“There is a fear that there are other actors internationally that are silently boycotting Israel and that this is not only a bilateral crisis between countries but that it could also have ramifications on Israel’s trade relations in general,” she said during a press interview then.

The words are probably even more true now than they were then. It is also possible Türkiye’s clearly strategic elimination of most imported Israeli building materials could cause other countries and companies to become more open and broader in impact for their own boycotts.

When it does find new sources for the banned shipments from Türkiye, Israel is already looking at much higher costs for the equivalent goods when they do ship. Almost any other source is more distant from Israel, which means higher shipping costs added, and Türkiye is already the lowest-cost supplier to many of these types of goods regionally, even without transportation adders.

Türkiye’s total lockdown of all exports and imports with Israel was announced a day after the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it was officially joining and supporting South Africa in its ongoing case against Israel for its multiple genocidal acts in Gaza. That case is currently in process at the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. And while the case appears bogged down without power to direct real change in any of Israel’s actions, that Türkiye is simultaneously joining that trial, while also preventing Israel with access to key commodities needed to keep what is left of “ordinary life” in Israel moving, represents a serious blow that may be harder than most for Israel to handle right now.

The boycott by Türkiye puts a spotlight on the continued support of the genocide by other Islamic dictatorships, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and UAE.