Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements, insisting the West Bank is Palestinian territory.
“The West Bank is absolutely a territory of Palestinians,” he told reporters before boarding a plane for a visit to Moscow where he is slated to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan warned that the fulfillment of the pledge would constitute “another occupation measure,” according to Reuters. He emphasized that Turkey
“will stand with Palestine.”
If reelected, Netanyahu told Channel 12 on Saturday, “I am going to apply Israeli sovereignty [to the West Bank settlements], but I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, each of those settlement points is Israeli.”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also condemned the “irresponsible” remarks.
“West Bank is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in violation of int’l law,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s irresponsible statement to seek votes just before the Israeli general elections cannot and will not change this fact.”
Netanyahu’s comments on Saturday came just days before the closely fought election on Tuesday and was widely seen as an appeal to right-wing voters, who do not believe in the feasibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
West Bank is Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in violation of int’l law. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s irresponsible statement to seek votes just before the Israeli general elections cannot and will not change this fact.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) April 7, 2019
“Yet another example of how Netanyahu uses electoral politics to justify occupation and undermine the two-state solution,” said Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman.
“If he is re-elected, will this be a triumph of ‘democracy’ or occupation? Will Western democracies react or will they keep appeasing? Shame on them all!” Kalin tweeted.
Settlements built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War are deemed illegal by the international community, and their ongoing construction is seen by Palestinians and their supporters as a major barrier to peace.
Extending sovereignty could put any chance for a two-state solution beyond reach, Netanyahu’s critics fear.
Erdogan, an ardent defender of the Palestinian cause, and Netanyahu frequently exchange barbs, notably during election campaigns.
Last month, Erdogan called the Israeli leader a “tyrant” after Netanyahu called him a “dictator” and a “joke.”
AFP contributed to this report