Turkey fumes over Israel’s muezzin bill ‘insult’
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Turkey fumes over Israel’s muezzin bill ‘insult’

Deputy prime minister says proposed law is 'unacceptable,' runs contrary to freedom of religion

An Israeli flag waves in front of the minaret of a mosque in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on November 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
An Israeli flag waves in front of the minaret of a mosque in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on November 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

Turkey on Monday denounced as “unacceptable” and an “insult” a bill being discussed in the Knesset to limit the volume of calls to prayer at mosques.

Israel and Turkey had earlier this year finally mended a years-long crisis in relations with the naming of ambassadors, but a considerable potential for tension remains.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has backed the bill, which if approved would apply across Israel and also to East Jerusalem where more than 300,000 Palestinians live.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that for centuries the Islamic call to prayer, church bells and Jewish prayers had mixed together in multi-faith Jerusalem.

“This is something on which there can be no compromise,” Kurtulmus, who is chief government spokesman, said after a cabinet meeting. “It’s absolutely unacceptable.

Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)
Shani Cooper, diplomatic attaché to the Israeli mission in Ankara, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a reception in the Turkish capital on August 30, 2016. (Courtesy of the Turkish presidency)

“It’s an insult to the culture, past and history of Jerusalem. It makes no sense and is contrary to freedom of belief.”

The bill initially met opposition from ultra-Orthodox Jews — who feared Jewish rituals could also be hit — but could now be revived after efforts were made to meet their concerns.

The bill was drafted in response to complaints about noise from mosques, but would in theory apply to all religious institutions.

Israeli Jews living in East Jerusalem neighborhoods had protested against the volume of Islamic prayer calls.

Passengers on the deck of the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 (IDF Spokesperson's Office/ Flash 90)
Passengers on the deck of the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 (IDF Spokesperson’s Office/ Flash 90)

Relations between Israel and Turkey plunged to an all time low in 2010 after Israeli commandos came under attack trying to stop a ship attempting to break the IDF’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Ten Turkish activists were killed in the ensuing melee, and Israel compensated the families as part of the rapprochement deal signed with Turkey earlier this year.

The two sides are already working to bring cooperation back to former levels and are holding talks on building an ambitious pipeline project to pump Israeli gas to Turkey and Europe.

Nevertheless, considerable tensions remain with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presenting himself as a champion of the Palestinians and regularly meeting with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

Israel, the United States and the European Union all view Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization.

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