A weekend war of words between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to rage Sunday, with Netanyahu calling Erdogan an “anti-Semite” who is obsessed with Israel while “slaughtering the Kurds.”
His comments came after Erdogan called out Netanyahu over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and the prime minister responded by pointing to Turkey’s operation against the Kurds in its border region with Syria.
“Just now I was exposed to the daily lunacy of the anti-Semitic dictator Erdogan,” Netanyahu said. “He is obsessed with Israel. He knows what a moral army is and he knows what a genuine democracy is, as opposed to an army that massacres women and children in Kurdish villages and a state that, to my regret, is becoming more dictatorial day by day.
“But there has been an improvement,” he added. “Erdogan used to attack me every two hours and now it is every six hours.”
Netanyahu made the remarks at a meeting in Tel Aviv with Christian soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces ahead of Christmas.
Earlier Sunday, Erdogan said of Netanyahu, “You are an oppressor, cruel and at the head of state terror.”
In a televised speech in Istanbul, he also accused Israel of “occupying Palestine” and committing “sins, crimes against humanity, massacres.”
Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas and long a harsh critic of Israel who regularly likens its actions toward the Palestinians to the mass Nazi murder of Jews during the Holocaust, kicked off the spat a day earlier, when he accused Israel of assaulting innocents.
“The Jews in Israel kick people lying on the ground. In fact, Jews don’t kick men but also women and children when they fall on the ground,” Erdogan said in a speech to young Turks at an Istanbul meeting of the Turkey Youth Foundation. “But as Muslims, we’ll confront these people [the Jews] if they have courage to deal with us, and we’ll teach them a lesson.”
Netanyahu told Erdogan in a tweet late on Saturday that he “should not preach to Israel” as “the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey.”
The occupier which kicks people lying on the ground is easily offended: @netanyahu is a cold-blooded killer of modern times, responsible for massacres of thousands of innocent Palestinians, bombing children on beaches. Turkey will never stop exposing the truth. pic.twitter.com/gr5NcDwO8S
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) December 23, 2018
Responding on Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote, “The occupier which kicks people lying on the ground is easily offended,” in a Twitter post that included photos of what appeared to be a dead Palestinian and a Palestinian being arrested by IDF troops.
Before Erdogan’s comments on Sunday, his chief adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, also hit out in a tweet at Netanyahu, whom he accused of using the spat with Erdogan “as a political chip” in a bid to save himself “from his domestic troubles.”
Turkey’s minister in charge of EU accession talks, Omer Celik, also chimed in, saying, “Netanyahu was very disturbed by our president’s warnings for humanity, for the oppressed. He’s going to be uncomfortable, because the truth won’t stop.”
On December 14, Erdogan also said Palestinians were subjected to “pressures, violence and intimidation policies no less grave than the oppression done to the Jews during the Second World War,” referring to the Holocaust.
Israel-Turkey relations have long been tense but reached a new nadir in May, in the aftermath of Israel’s response to violent protests on the Gaza border that were inspired by Hamas, and in which dozens of Palestinians were killed.
At the time, Erdogan placed the blame for the Gaza deaths squarely on Israel, accusing it of being a “terrorist state” that commits “genocide.” Then, too, Erdogan compared Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis. Turkey later recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelled Israel’s envoys.
Israel responded in kind, with Netanyahu saying Erdogan “well understands terrorism and slaughter” and should not lecture Israel about military ethics. Despite reports about Israeli-Turkish backchannel talks trying to restore diplomatic relations, none of the envoys who were recalled have returned to their respective postings.
On January 20, Ankara launched an air and ground offensive in the enclave of Afrin in Syria to root out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey brands a terrorist group but which is seen by the United States as a key player in the fight against Islamic State jihadists.
After US President Donald Trump abruptly announced last week he would withdraw all American troops from Syria, Erdogan on Friday vowed to drive out the US-backed Kurdish militia, as well as jihadists, from Syria.
US support for the YPG has strained ties between the two NATO allies.