Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up a war of words with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, telling him that he better get used to an Israeli response to his rhetoric and that Israel was not prepared to accept criticism from the Turkish strongman.
“Erdogan is not used to being answered back to,” Netanyahu tweeted. “He should get used to it. ”
His comments came on a day of back and forth between the two in which Erdogan called Netanyahu a “terrorist” and Israel a “terrorist state.”
Netanyahu cited what he said were Turkey’s crimes: “Someone who occupies northern Cyprus, invades the Kurdish regions, and slaughters civilians in Afrin — should not preach to us about values and ethics,” Netanyahu said.
Turkey invaded areas of northern Cypus in 1974 and later annexed the territory in a move not recognized by any other country.
In January this year, Turkey 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. The UN has said that 170,000 people have fled Afrin in the wake of the Turkish offensive. Dozens of civilians have been killed.
Netanyahu’s comments came after earlier in the day Erdogan had branded him a “terrorist.”
“Hey Netanyahu! You are an occupier. And it is as an occupier that you are on those lands. At the same time, you are a terrorist,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Adana, southern Turkey.
“What you do to the oppressed Palestinians will be part of history and we will never forget it,” he said, adding: “The Israeli people are uncomfortable with what you’re doing. We are not guilty of any act of occupation.”
In another speech, Reuters quoted Erdogan as saying: “You are a terrorist state. It is known what you have done in Gaza and what you have done in Jerusalem. You have no one that likes you in the world.”
Netanyahu earlier Sunday lashed out at Turkey in response to its president’s claim that Israel had mounted an “inhumane attack” on Palestinians during Friday’s mass protests on the border with Israel.
“The most moral army in the world will not accept moral preaching from someone who for years has been bombing a civilian population indiscriminately,” he said, in apparent reference to Ankara’s ongoing battle against the Kurds.
“That’s apparently how Ankara marks [April Fool’s Day],” Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew, of the Turkish condemnation.
On Saturday, Erdogan said during a speech in Istanbul, “I strongly condemn the Israeli government over its inhumane attack.”
The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that at least 10 of those killed — the Gazans reported a death toll of 15 — were members of Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas.
IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said Friday that the military faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence.
He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence. “All the fatalities were aged 18-30, several of the fatalities were known to us, and at least two of them were members of Hamas commando forces,” he said in a late afternoon statement.
As of Saturday evening, Hamas, a terrorist group that openly seeks to destroy Israel, itself acknowledged that five of the dead in the so-called “March of Return” were its own gunmen.
On Friday, some 30,000 Palestinians took part in demonstrations along the Gaza border, during which rioters threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops on the other side of the fence, burned tires and scrap wood, sought to breach and damage the security fence, and in one case opened fire at Israeli soldiers.
The IDF said that its sharpshooters targeted only those taking explicit violent action against Israeli troops or trying to break through or damage the security fence.
At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.
No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position has generally been that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.