Saturday 21 September 2019

Israel PM speaks out as war of words erupts with Turkey

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters

Aron Heller Jerusalem

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed Hamas was paying Gazans to try to infiltrate Israel.

Mr Netanyahu, in an interview with CBS 'Evening News', was asked if there is anything he would have done differently over the violent protests along the Gaza border on Monday in which more than 60 Gazans, including 24 terrorists, were killed.

"Well, I wish that it wouldn't have happened at all," Mr Netanyahu said. "I mean, Hamas is pushing people with a view of a massive infiltration into Israel, openly declaring their goal is to destroy Israel.

"They're paying these people. So it's, it's not the, you know, the peaceful demonstrations that you think about."

Turkey exchanged diplomatic barbs yesterday as the spat between the former allies escalated following deadly violence along Israel's border with Gaza.

A day after it expelled the Israeli ambassador, Turkey asked Israel's consul-general in Istanbul to leave as well. Israel, in turn, summoned a top Turkish diplomat to be reprimanded for the humiliation of Israel's ambassador as he was kicked out of the country.

The exchanges came less than two years after the two countries reconciled and exchanged ambassadors after six years of animosity.

Once close allies in an Arab-dominated region, Israel and Turkey's ties began to decline after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, first came to power as prime minister in 2003. Relations imploded in 2010 after a confrontation between Israeli commandos and a Turkish flotilla trying to breach the blockade of Gaza left 10 Turkish activists dead.

Mr Erdogan has often lashed out at Israel over its clashes with Hamas militants in Gaza, and he led the international criticism of Israel after more than 60 Palestinians were killed in the bloodiest day of violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. He also ratcheted up his rhetoric against the US embassy move to Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu retorted that a "man whose hands are drenched in the blood of countless Kurdish civilians in Turkey and Syria is the last one who can preach to us about military ethics".

Mr Netanyahu's son Yair, who has drawn criticism in the past for making crude social media posts, chimed in on Facebook.

"Turkey, you're responsible to unbelievable atrocities and suffer to Cyprus, the Greek people, the Kurds and a genocide of the Armenians. Also I would like to remind the Turks that they're a people coming from Central Asia, illegally occupying little Asia and Constantinople that was Christian before their invasion. So shut up!" he wrote.

Israel's foreign ministry summoned a top Turkish diplomat on Tuesday to reprimand him for Turkey's treatment of Israeli ambassador Eitan Naeh. The ministry accused Turkey of subjecting Mr Naeh to a particularly severe security screening at the airport in Istanbul and inviting local Turkish media to capture the humiliation of him being frisked and forced to remove his shoes and jacket.

The meeting in Jerusalem with the Turkish deputy ambassador, Umut Deniz, lasted about 20 minutes. He was asked to present his documents upon entering and made no comment to a crowd of reporters as he left the building. He then walked to a waiting van, slammed the door shut and it drove away.

Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel expressed "our concern and our dismay at a gross violation of the diplomatic ethics".

"The images of our ambassador being subjected to an unnecessary security check are spread all over Turkey," he said. "This is something that is totally contrary to diplomatic relations between countries, and a public humiliation of an ambassador is something that Israel will not accept under any circumstances."

Irish Independent

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