Reconciliation with Turkey was a mistake, Lapid says

As Ankara and Jerusalem trade barbs over Jerusalem, Yesh Atid leader calls for recognition of Armenian genocide, ‘burying’ gas pipeline plans

Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on November 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on November 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Monday called Israel’s reconciliation deal with Turkey last year a “diplomatic mistake,” amid a spiraling war of words between Ankara and Jerusalem.

Lapid said his party would lodge a bill in the Knesset recognizing the Armenian genocide — a step Israel has traditionally refrained from taking over fears of angering Turkey, with which Israel re-established ties in 2016.

The Yesh Atid leader also called for “burying the bad idea” to build a gas pipeline to Turkey and for Israel to “upgrade its support for the creation of an independent Kurdish state” and to “assist the Kurds together with the United States and with countries in the region.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during a joint press conference with the Greek prime minister (not seen) in Athens, December 7, 2017. (Louisa GOULIAMAKI/AFP)

His comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called Israel a “terrorist state” that “kills children.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response, accused the Turkish leader of bombing Kurdish civilians and helping terrorists murder innocent people. On Sunday evening, Turkey accused Israel of “massacring” thousands of Palestinians.

The bitter exchange between Turkey and Israel was sparked by mounting tension over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Speaking at his weekly Yesh Atid faction meeting, Lapid condemned the 2016 reconciliation deal with Turkey, which saw the two countries restore ties soured by the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident six years earlier.

Relations between the former allies imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The raid, in which IDF commandos were attacked by activists on board, left 10 Turks dead and several soldiers wounded.

“The reconciliation agreement with the Turks, after the Marmara incident, was a diplomatic mistake and it has failed. We won’t be threatened. Not by the Turks. Not by the Palestinians. Not by the Arab world. If anyone didn’t like President Trump’s announcement – that’s their problem,” said Lapid.

“Erdogan crossed the line,” said Lapid.”He attacks IDF soldiers and calls them murderers. He is part of the problem with regards to Iran’s presence in Syria. It cannot stand without a response.”

“Someone who denies the murder of hundreds of thousands of children in the Armenian genocide won’t lecture us. Someone who cooperated with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, in a war which has left half a million dead, won’t lecture us,” added Lapid.

On Sunday, during a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Netanyahu said Turkey’s president was a brutal dictator who supports Palestinian terrorist groups in their efforts to “kill innocent people.”

“I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” said Netanyahu.

Israel has long pressed Turkey to end its support for Hamas and not allow Hamas members to live in Turkey.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a joint news conference following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on December 10, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Philippe Wojazer)

Netanyahu’s comments were themselves a response to Erdogan, who had vowed to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Erdogan said. “We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

The Turkish leader has employed sharp rhetoric against Israel almost daily in the wake of Trump officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2017, as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

On Sunday evening, Turkey again issued a statement excoriating Israel.

“It is not possible to take seriously the allegations and accusations made by a mentality which massacred thousands of Palestinians, turned the lands of the Palestinians into an open-air prison, in order to suppress its guilt,” Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Israeli PM Netanyahu’s remarks targeting the Republic of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Kalın said in a written statement.

Israel disregards international law, has “occupied Palestinian people’s hundreds-of-years-old homeland and systematically violates United Nations resolutions,” the statement said, adding that Israel “must first account for its own actions.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters chant slogans against US and Israel as they wave Turkish and Palestinian flags on December 10, 2017, during a demonstration in Istanbul. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

In a White House speech last week, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.

The change in longstanding US policy has sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world and led to days of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada against Israel and has allowed thousands of Gazans to confront Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence in recent days.

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