Sightseeing Israeli Couple Held Hostage in Turkey

Turkey arrested and detained Mordy and Natali Oknin, an Israeli tourist couple, last week, claiming them to be spies. The Oknins, both Israeli bus drivers, are accused of espionage as a result of photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s palace in Istanbul. Yet if this was Israel’s goal (which is unlikely since photographing Turkish buildings isn’t a pressing intelligence matter), it has much more sophisticated methods of doing so rather than having Hebrew-speaking Israelis openly take pictures and post them on social media, The Times of Israel reported. 

It is believed that this arrest is related to Turkey’s claim in October that it had arrested 15 alleged Mossad agents in its borders. Turkey was angling for something valuable in return for their safety. But since they were not Israelis, they proved to be poor bargaining chips, as Israel did not claim responsibility for them. Still pursuing something valuable from Israel, Turkey may have captured the Oknin couple to pressure Israel more strongly into giving up what Turkey is after, since the husband and wife are Jewish Israelis.

All evidence would suggest this is an egregious action by Turkey. The nation essentially kidnapped an Israeli couple for sightseeing. Despite political tension, Turkish and Israeli intelligence have cooperated for decades, so this would seem foolish for Turkey to jeopardize the progress the countries have quietly made. The nation has much to gain from cooperation with Israel as part of Turkey’s current policy of making peace with regional powers. We pray for the couple’s safe return, which Turkey should come to realize is not only the just thing to do but the most effective decision for itself as well.