The White House on Tuesday strongly condemned the Turkish prime minister for the accusation that Israel was behind the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
“We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a briefing to reporters.
Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said that his government could prove Israel’s involvement in Egypt, and cited as evidence statements made during a 2011 meeting between French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy and then-opposition leader Tzipi Livni in France.
Although he did not name Levy directly (and referred to Livni as the Israeli justice minister), Erdogan cited the Jewish intellectual as saying during the meeting with Livni that “the Muslim Brotherhood will not be in power even if they win the elections. Because democracy is not the ballot box.”
“Now the West starts to say democracy is not the ballot box or not only the box, but we know that the ballot box is the people’s will,” the Turkish leader said. “This is what has been implemented in Egypt. Who is behind this? Israel. We have evidence.”
Asked to comment about Erdogan’s statement, an Israeli government official responded with one word: “Nonsense.”
The Egyptian interim government rejected Erdogan’s statement as “baseless,” irrational and “very bewildering,” saying its patience was running thin with Turkey, one of the biggest critics of the July 3 military coup. “Its purpose is to strike at the unity of Egyptians,” the government said in a statement.
An aide of Erdogan said that as far as he knew, the video footage of Livni and Levy was the only ostensible evidence to the claim. The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Erdogan was apparently referring to the following statement by Levy: “If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I will not say democracy wants it, so let democracy progress. Democracy is not only elections, it is also values.”
Pressed further as to whether he would urge Egypt’s military to intervene against the Muslim Brotherhood, Levy can be seen saying, “I will urge the prevention of them coming to power, but by all sorts of means.”
A spokeswoman for Livni rejected Erdogan’s accusations, saying in a statement that “Any attempt to link Minister Livni to Egypt’s internal affairs is baseless.”
Levy could not immediately be reached for comment.
During his speech Erdogan also took a swipe at other Muslim nations, accusing them of betraying Egypt by supporting the country’s military-backed new leaders.
Turkey had championed the Islamist Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement and has strongly condemned his removal from power by the Egyptian military and the subsequent bloodshed and civil strife. Last week, Istanbul recalled its ambassador to Egypt in protest, and Egypt’s interim government followed suit by recalling the Egyptian ambassador to Turkey, effectively cutting off diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Turkey and Israel also enjoyed close diplomatic, economic and military relations before the 2008-2009 Israeli Cast Lead operation against Gaza’s terror groups and the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed trying to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.
Despite a reconciliation phone call between Erdogan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, brokered by US President Barack Obama in March, ties between the two countries have remained strained.
AP and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.