Analysis: Let's Talk Turkey

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador to a meeting on Monday to discuss the latest anti-Israel Turkish propaganda - a television program, depicting Shin Bet agents kidnapping babies.

The program follows another one that aired on Turkey's state-sponsored television a few months ago. It portrayed Israeli soldiers as bloodthirsty killers.

During the photo op preceding Monday's meeting, Ayalon and two Israeli officials sat in chairs, facing Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, who was seated on a sofa. A small Israeli flag stood on the table, the Turkish flag noticeably absent.

According to Israeli media sources, Ayalon, speaking in Hebrew, instructed the photographers to pay attention to the seating, the absence of the Turkish flag and to the expressions on their faces.

The Foreign Ministry intended to portray a visible response to the anti-Israel rhetoric the Turkish government has been dishing out for more than a year.

Celikkol later told Army Radio he had not been informed beforehand of the content of the meeting nor had he experienced such a shameful lack of diplomacy in his 35 years as a diplomat.

While this scenario was taking place in Israel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrapped up meetings in Ankara with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The two leaders signed a series of agreements, bolstering the ties between their countries, which include military and defense contracts.

Erdogan recently signed similar agreements with Syria and Iran, citing their friendship as critical to maintaining peace in the region.

At a joint press conference, Erdogan and Hariri accused Israel of everything from violating Lebanese airspace and territorial waters to responding disproportionately against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip firing rockets and mortars on southern Israel.

Erdogan also defended Iran's nuclear program, saying it was strictly for energy use, while accusing Israel of possessing a nuclear arsenal.

"We can never remain silent in the face of Israel's attitude," Erdogan told reporters. "It has disproportionate power and it is using that at will, while refusing to abide by U.N. resolutions. We can never accept this picture. These steps threaten global piece," he said.

Israel responded to "the Turkish prime minister's unbridled attack at a joint press conference with the Lebanese prime minister" with a statement issued by Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy.

"The State of Israel has every right to defend its citizens from missile and terror attacks launched by Hezbollah and Hamas. The Turks have absolutely no right to preach morality to the State of Israel and the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], which is the most moral army in the world," the Foreign Ministry statement read.

"The prime minister's speech joins the broadcasting of the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic Turkish television show, as well as severe criticisms being continuously and systematically launched at Israel for over a year now since Erdogan attacked President [Shimon] Peres in Davos [Switzerland]," the statement read.

"Israel maintains respect for Turkey and is interested in proper relations between the two states; however, we expect reciprocity and a similar attitude from the Turkish side," the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer are scheduled to leave for Turkey on Sunday in an attempt to mend diplomatic fences.

Last month, Lieberman rejected Turkey's offer to resume its role during the Olmert adminstration as third-party mediator in negotiations with Syria.

"We are not looking to fight with anyone," Lieberman said, "but I regret some of the things that were recently said by the Turkish prime minister. If anyone thinks we will agree to their mediation after all this, they can forget it.

"As long as I am foreign minister, there will be no Turkish mediation in the talks with Syria. But if Damascus wishes to talk, it will only be in a direct meeting, not in secret diplomacy, without mediation and without mediators, definitely not Turkish ones," Israel's foreign minister said.

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YNet news contributed to this report.

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