TEL AVIV — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday urged Muslims to visit the Temple Mount to act as a counter to the “insult” of “occupied Jerusalem,” and called Israel a “racist and discriminatory” state that is reminiscent of apartheid.
Erdogan also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to work on “unifying efforts to protect Jerusalem against attempts of Judaization,” the independent Palestinian Maan news agency reported.
“We, as Muslims, should be visiting Al-Quds more often,” he said, referring to Jerusalem by its Arabic name.
Erdogan said more Muslim visits to the Jerusalem holy site “would be the greatest support to our brothers there.”
“Both in terms of our religion and historical responsibility, Al-Quds and the fight of our Palestinian brothers for rights and justice is of great importance to us. We will keep making efforts for Quds to turn into a city of peace,” he added.
Hamdallah and Erdogan met in Istanbul to discuss “ways to support Jerusalem.” The meeting was also attended by Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs Youssef Ideiss and Palestinian Governor of Jerusalem Adnan al-Husseini.
“It is impossible to find a solution and peace in the region without finding a fair solution for the Palestinian cause first,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
“Israel keeps getting away from punishment,” he added, asserting that peace will never be reached “unless Israel is held accountable for its crimes.”
Erdogan also slammed Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians as “racist and discriminatory” and compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.
“What’s the difference between the present acts of the Israeli administration and the racist and discriminatory politics that were practiced against black people in the past in America and up until a short time ago in South Africa?” he asked.
He also sent a veiled threat to President Donald Trump, saying that moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be “extremely ill-advised.”
Erdogan added that the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip “has no place in humanity.”
Israel attacked Erdogan for his comments, calling them “baseless slander” and charging Erdogan with being a “serial human rights violator.”
“Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country, should not preach about morality to the only democracy in the region,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander,” the statement said.
“The fact that such an issue is even coming to the agenda is shameful,” he said. “The fact that those who talk about freedom of thought and faith at every opportunity actually approve this step by remaining silent is noteworthy. Inshallah, we will not allow the silencing of prayers from the heavens of Jerusalem.”
“Why are you afraid of the freedom of faith if you believe in your faith? I am now reminding Israeli administrators: If you believe in your faith, then why are you afraid of the sound of our prayers?” he asked.
The spat threatens the newly signed rapprochement deal between Israel and Turkey following a six-year rift in diplomatic relations.