“The richest Jew in the world” was asked to intervene on Israel’s behalf to repair the frayed ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, once strong, have soured since the rise of Erdogan’s Islamic-oriented government in Ankara, and were further worsened by the 2010 deaths of nine Turks in a clash with Israeli commandos attempting to halt a protest flotilla bound for Gaza
“They sent the richest Jewish man in the world [to us] a couple of months ago. What was the reason? He was supposed to be an intercessor,” Erdoğan said in a Monday interview with NTV News, adding that it was in Israel’s interest to repair ties with Turkey.
Turkish media reports suggested that the mystery man was in fact Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress and a cosmetics tycoon listed by Forbes among the richest Jews in the world.
Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’s conditions for reconciliation: that Israel apologize for the killing of the activists, pay compensation to the victims’ families, and lift the blockade on Gaza.
The Turkish prime minister also commented on the furor over the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” that has set an indignant Islamic world ablaze. Erdoğan said he intends to raise the matter of the movie at the United Nations in a quest to have Islamophobia defined as a “hate crime.”
“The limits of freedom of expression and conscience end where others’ rights begin,” Erdoğan said. “You can say anything about religion, ideas and faith, but you have to stop when you cross the other’s [limit].”
In the same interview, Erdoğan reported that Turkey was continuing a campaign against Kurdish rebels who are fighting for independence. Erdoğan said that in the last month Turkish forces have “rendered ineffective” over 500 members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).