Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded to a US statement that his strong rhetoric against Israel’s deadly attacks on Gaza are “offensive and wrong,” saying the US is the one making offensive statements by insisting Israel is exercising its right to self-defense.
During a press briefing on Friday, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, the US believes Erdoğan’s statements are “offensive” and his “provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a ceasefire” between Palestinian group Hamas, which governs Gaza, and Israel, following Erdoğan’s statements that Israel is committing genocide.
During a televised interview on the private TGRT television station on Sunday, Erdoğan rejected Psaki’s claims.
“… I first call on America to evaluate themselves. The US is the one who has made offensive and saddening statements up to now. … If America still says ‘Israel is exercising its right to self-defense’ in face of these [developments], now America has to engage in some self-criticism here. America is the one who is being offensive,” he said adding the US, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, “should act in a fair manner.”
Erdoğan was apparently referring to Friday’s remarks from US President Barack Obama that the US supports Israel’s right to self-defense, even though he encouraged the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to minimize civilian deaths in its ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
“No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory,” Obama told reporters at the White House after a phone conversation with Netanyahu.
On Saturday Erdoğan also rebuked the US for criticizing his remarks, saying Israel’s attacks on Gaza have “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.
“Some Americans ask why did Mr. Prime Minister [Erdoğan] make such a comparison. What’s that to you? You’re America, what’s Hitler got to do with you?” he said during a presidential campaign rally in the Black Sea port city of Ordu and added: “The people will be killed, you, huge America, say Israel has right to self-defense instead of seeking justice. What defense? It is using disproportionate force.”
During the interview on Sunday, Erdoğan reiterated his criticism of the US, asking how they can turn a blind eye to children being killed on a beach.
“Just like we feel offended when they make their statements, they should have no problem with us speaking our minds. Should they send us a text so that we can read it as our statement?” asked Erdoğan.
War of words escalates between Erdoğan and Netanyahu over Hitler debate
While Erdoğan has continued to lambast Israel over the Gaza offensive, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State John Kerry during a phone conversation that Erdoğan’s remarks were “anti-Semitic” and “desecrated the memory of the Holocaust,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.
“[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” Erdoğan said during a presidential campaign rally in the Black Sea port city of Ordu.
Before, Prime Minister Erdoğan likened an Israeli member of parliament, apparently Ayelet Shaked of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, to Hitler.
“An Israeli woman said Palestinian mothers should be killed, too. And she’s a member of the Israeli parliament. What is the difference between this mentality and Hitler’s?” he asked last week and continued to criticize her on Saturday.
In his remarks on Saturday, Erdoğan also criticized women’s rights associations, alleging that they have the same mentality as Shaked, who was accused of inciting violence after posting a quote saying, “mothers of the martyrs should also be killed.”
However, Erdoğan did warn his supporters against taking their anger out on the country’s Jewish population.
“I don’t approve of any [bad] attitude towards our Jewish citizens in Turkey, despite all this. Why? They are the citizens of this country,” he said.
Around 17,000 Jews live in Turkey.
Netanyahu’s remarks, calling Erdoğan’s statement anti-Semitic came after the Israeli Foreign Ministry advised Israelis to “avoid non-essential visits” to Turkey or to be especially vigilant and steer clear of anti-Israel demonstrations in the country.
Israel also ordered the families of Israeli diplomats in Turkey to return on Friday following protests outside the Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and İstanbul.
Israel further decreased the number of its diplomats in Turkey according to a statement from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office, Israeli media reported on Friday. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel were already downgraded after an Israeli raid of the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara in 2010. The Israeli ambassador in Ankara was expelled during the course of the crisis.
Turkish media reported an explosion of pro-Hitler tweets, and some liberal Turks reacted with outrage on Twitter when a pro-government newspaper published a Hitler-themed crossword.