search

Expanding settlements ‘absolute provocation‘ — Erdogan

Turkish president, on official visit to Bahrain, also slams Israel for trying to quiet Muslim call to prayer

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Israeli ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh (L) are seen after Naeh presented his letter of credence to Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on December 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Israeli ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh (L) are seen after Naeh presented his letter of credence to Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara, on December 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday became the latest in a string of world leaders to criticize Israel’s decision to expand settlements in the West Bank, calling the move an “absolute provocation,” the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported.

Erdogan made the remarks on live TV during an official visit to Bahrain.

“Israel’s decision to construct new settlement units in East Jerusalem and West Bank is an absolute provocation,” Erdogan said.

The plan constituted a violation of international law, he added. “Ending the illegal settlement activity is a precondition for lasting peace and stability in the Middle East,” he said.

Erdogan’s criticism comes just months after Jerusalem and Ankara began patching up long-tense relations.

Turkey and Israel renewed bilateral ties in the summer. Ankara broke off relations with Jerusalem following a raid by Israeli forces on a Gaza blockade-busting ship, the Mavi Marmara, in 2010, in which 10 Turks were killed in a melee after they attacked IDF troops.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved the construction of around 3,000 new homes in the West Bank, some of them outside settlement blocs Israel hopes to keep in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

A picture taken on February 8, 2017 shows a general view of a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Nili, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP Photo/Gil Cohen-Magen)
A picture taken on February 8, 2017 shows a general view of a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Nili, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP Photo/Gil Cohen-Magen)

The decision came a week after Israel had green-lighted the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem and another 2,500 homes in the West Bank.

France, Germany, the EU and the Arab League are among those that have lambasted Israel’s settlement expansion decision. The Trump administration has said such construction “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.

The Jazar Mosque in the Old City of the northern Israeli city of Acre on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, June 3, 2016. (Zack Wajsgras/Flash90)
The Jazar Mosque in the Old City of the northern Israeli city of Acre on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, June 3, 2016. (Zack Wajsgras/Flash90)

Erdogan also used his speech to condemn Israeli government moves to limit the volume of calls to prayer issued from the country’s mosques.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a new draft of the so-called Muezzin Bill.

“Not only Muslims but everybody should be sensitive to all practices that disturb peace of the international community and hurt conscience in Jerusalem, which is our first qiblah,” Erdogan said.

Qiblah is the direction Muslims turn during prayer.

“Such steps will not be of any use other than heightening tension,” Erdogan warned.

If the bill passes its initial reading in the Knesset, expected to take place on Wednesday, it will be sent back to committee, after which it will again come before the plenum for its second and third readings prior to becoming law. The ministerial committee’s backing gives the bill coalition support.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed