Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a hypocrite after the Turkish leader condemned Israel for ostensibly excessive force in quelling protests around the Temple Mount.
“It would be interesting to see what Erdogan would say to the residents of northern Cyprus or to the Kurds. Erdogan is the last person who can preach to Israel,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The statement was referring to Turkey’s 33-year occupation of northern Cyprus and its decades-long suppression of the struggle for independence of the ethnic Kurdish minority in Turkey.
Erdogan had panned Israel hours earlier for use of “excessive force” against Muslim worshipers during clashes over security measures at the Temple Mount.
“Israeli soldiers are defiling al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple excuses to easily shed blood there,” he said at an AKP faction meeting, referring to the mosque that sits on the mount along with the Dome of the Rock.
Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount following a July 14 terror attack, during which two Israeli police officers were shot dead just outside the compound by three Arab Israelis who used guns they had smuggled into the holy site.
Following the shooting, Israel took the rare step of closing the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers on a Friday — the holiest day of the week in Islam — in order to search for weapons. The site was reopened two days later after Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to the compound. Previously, detectors were only at the Mughrabi Gate, the entrance for non-Muslim visitors.
The move led to widespread anger among Muslims, who boycotted praying at the site in protest of the metal detectors, and sparked a series of violent clashes with Israeli security forces, during which five Palestinians were killed.
The tensions surrounding the site were also cited by assailants in two recent terror attacks, including last week when a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish as they celebrated Shabbat.
Late Monday night, Israeli work crews removed security cameras along with metal detectors installed outside the Temple Mount, in a bid to defuse rampant tensions that have set Jerusalem and the West Bank aflame in recent days. New metal barriers remained for channeling people toward the entrance gates.
Erdogan welcomed the move but said Turkey would not accept measures that treat Muslims wanting to pray as “terrorists.”
“What is being done now is using the fight against terrorism as a pretext to take al-Aqsa Mosque from the hands of Muslims. There is no other explanation,” he said.
The Turkish leader went on to call all Muslims to visit the mosque. “Come, let’s all protect Jerusalem,” he said.
Also reacting to Erdogan’s statements, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon called the Turkey president’s speech in front of party activists “delusional, unfounded and distorted.”
“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” said Nahshon, alluding to Turkey’s treatment of government dissent since an attempted coup in July 2016.
The spokesman went on to assert that the Israeli government is keen on protecting the freedom of worship to all visitors of its Jerusalem holy sites, “Unlike [Ottoman rule] in the past.”