After Turkey recalled its ambassadors to Israel and the United States on Monday to protest the Israeli response to riots along the Gaza border fence, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israel a “terror state” and denounced its actions as “genocide.”
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by saying Erdogan is among the biggest supporters of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and suggested he “not preach morality to us.”
“Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,” Erdogan said to a group of Turkish students in London.
“What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America,” the Turkish president continued.
“We will continue to stand with Palestinian people with determination,” Erdogan vowed.
The use of the word “genocide” by a Turkish president comes soon after the anniversary of the Armenian and Assyrian genocides, which the Turkish state continues not to recognize. The Turkish parliament recently rejected a bill that would have formally recognized the Armenian genocide, even as thousands marched around the world to commemorate the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915.
Erdogan himself apologized to the Armenians in April for their “suffering” but refused to use the word “genocide” he threw at the Israelis. Challenged on that point when he issued a similar statement in April 2014, Erdogan explained that it could not have been a “genocide” because not all of the Armenians in Turkey were killed.
The Turkish president is also on shaky ground when it comes to criticizing how anyone else deals with protesters, having famously deployed a squad of thugs to beat entirely non-violent demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, last May. Infuriated by the arrest warrants issued for 12 of his bodyguards, Erdogan exclaimed, “What kind of law is this? If my bodyguards cannot protect me then why am I bringing them to America with me?”
AFP called Erdogan’s tirade against Israel “one of his most vehement broadsides ever against the Jewish state” and reported that Erdogan announced three days of national mourning in Turkey to be followed by a massive demonstration in Istanbul on Friday.
The Turkish government said on Tuesday that it will establish an “air bridge” to transport wounded Gazans to Turkey for medical treatment. Turkey has called an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which it currently presides over, to be held on Friday in Istanbul.
In an interview with Bloomberg News from London, Erdogan blamed the violence on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump instead of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that organized the assault on Israel’s border. He also railed against Trump for raising tensions in the region by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
“You see, the step of declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a very serious step towards tensions in the region,” Erdogan said. “We’re looking at the number of people who were killed in the Gaza Strip. It’s a disaster. 37 people—in fact, I believe more—died and hundreds of people are wounded and these people were wounded by real bullets.”
“How could this happen? 700 people are now wounded in Gaza. This can’t happen. There are two people responsible: Mr. Trump and Netanyahu,” he declared.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim backed Erdogan’s play on Monday by accusing the United States of aiding Israel in perpetrating crimes against humanity.
“Unfortunately, the U.S. has arrogantly stood by the Israeli administration which kills civilians and has partnered in this crime against humanity,” Yildirim said at a press conference in Ankara.
“This provocation will only worsen the problems in the region and cause a deeper mark in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, and will make peace in the region more difficult,” he said.
Yildirim added his theory that President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to distract from domestic political scandals, or “trying to hide the fire inside by setting fires outside,” as he put it.
“Muslim countries should absolutely review their ties with Israel. The Islamic world should display unity and togetherness against these villains. Turkey has not remained and will not remain silent against this cruelty,” Yildirim declared at a meeting of the ruling AKP Party on Tuesday.
In the course of reporting Yildirim’s accusations, Reuters noticed that some 2,000 protesters marched through Istanbul carrying banners that said “Jerusalem belongs to Muslims” and “Murderer Israel, Get Out of Palestine,” which does not seem helpful to Erdogan and Yildirim’s narrative about peaceful protesters assaulted by the Israeli military for no good reason.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back at Erdogan on Tuesday morning via Twitter:
Erdogan is among Hamas's biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 15, 2018
U.S. defense officials said on Monday that additional Marines have been added to security details at American embassies in Jordan, Turkey, and Israel as a precaution. More military security could be added to other embassies in Middle Eastern countries with histories of violent protest.