Ankara, Tel Aviv in war of words

Ankara, Tel Aviv in war of words

Ankara, Tel Aviv in war of words

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, leans out past Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as he looks down the line of victims' family members during the funeral services of four French Jews killed in an attack on a kosher grocery store in Paris last week, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. AP Photo

Senior Turkish and Israeli senior officials have started a war of words over the Israeli prime minister’s controversial participation in a massive anti-terror demonstration in Paris, with his Turkish counterpart comparing his operations in Gaza to jihadist terrorists that killed 17 people last week in the French capital.

“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, as the head of a government that massacred children playing on a beach in Gaza through aerial bombing, that destroyed thousands of houses, that made the killing of Palestinians routine on all occasions, that killed our citizens on board a humanitarian aid ship in international waters, committed crimes against humanity just like those terrorists who carried out the Paris massacre. He can’t escape this,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters Jan. 14 at a press conference before departing for Brussels.

The row between two countries’ officials was sparked after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Netanyahu for daring to attend the Paris march along with other leaders. Netanyahu on Jan. 14 hit back at the Turkish president while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused him of being an “anti-Semitist bully.”

“I believe his shameful remarks must be repudiated by the international community, because the war against terror will only succeed if it’s guided by moral clarity,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling visiting leaders of the U.S. pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. “I’ve yet to hear any world leader condemn the comments by Erdoğan, not one. He said Israel should not have been represented in the march in Paris, and the reason he gave was our actions to defend our citizens against the thousands of rockets hurled at our cities by the terrorists of Hamas.”

Erdoğan’s spokesperson and the Foreign Ministry also issued statements criticizing Netanyahu’s remarks. 

Citing the tragic consequences of the Israeli army’s operation into Gaza that killed 2,205 Palestinians, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said: “While such a humanitarian tragedy is apparent, that the Israeli prime minister attended this rally and abused it for his own political aims is both disrespectful to the memory of the civilians killed in Gaza and a desire to make a miserable political show in the face of the international community. Therefore, the Israeli prime minister’s call for the condemnation of our president’s speech on Jan. 14 and attempting to cover up the crimes he committed in Gaza is a shameful and hypocritical situation for humanity.”

Kalın also said Netanyahu’s usage of the term “Islamic terrorism” was an Islamophobic attitude and could not be accepted.

“Netanyahu’s use of the Paris attacks and anti-terrorism march for his own political ends is deplorable and should be condemned by all. The Israeli government should stop its aggressive and racist policies and learn to respect the rights of the Palestinians instead of attacking others by hiding behind anti-Semitism,” he added.

Turkey itself received criticism from many of its citizens over Davutoğlu’s appearance at the march for press freedom in Paris given the country’s poor record on media freedom.

Reaction to Washington

In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç responded to his colleague at the State Department, Marie Harf, who said she “vehemently disagrees” with Erdoğan’s words that accused the Israeli prime minister of being hypocritical of Netanyahu.

“It’s an unfortunate comment,” Bilgiç said at a press conference yesterday. Underlining that Netanyahu disregarded international law by his operations into Gaza, Bilgiç said, “Instead of commenting about President Erdoğan’s statement, Harf should better comment on Israel’s act.”