Israel’s Foreign Minister rebuked Turkey’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv on Tuesday over inflammatory statements made the previous day by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who harshly criticised Israel and called on Muslims to visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount en masse.
At the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem telephoned Turkey’s Ambassador Kemal Okem for a “clarification conversation”, the ministry said, in the first major confrontation since the two countries re-established ties last year.
On Monday evening during a speech at the International Forum on Al-Quds Waqfs in Istanbul, President Erdogan called Israel “racist and discriminatory” and called on Muslims to visit Temple Mount in large numbers to support Palestinians.
He declared that “each day Jerusalem is under occupation” it is “an insult to us”. Later that day during a discussion with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Erdogan spoke of the necessity to protect Jerusalem against “judaization”.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry published a statement on Monday evening stating: “Those who systematically violate human rights in their own country should not preach to the only true democracy in the region”.
The statement continued: “Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians – and will continue to do so despite the baseless slander launched against it”.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Public Security Minister, stated: “Unfortunately, his statements on Jerusalem and the Temple Mount kindles a fire that hurts the security of Jerusalem residents and visitors”. He added that unlike other areas in the region, Israel protects the right to worship and provides free access to holy sites to all religions.
In April – despite mass reported voting irregularities – Erdogan narrowly claimed victory in a referendum that approved a set of constitutional amendments to turn the country into a Presidential system, granting him sweeping new powers. According to the published results, the ‘Yes’ vote won by 51,4%, compared to 48,6% for the ‘No’ camp.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), who sent a mission to observe the referendum, said that the referendum fell short of international standards, and that over 2.5 million votes are suspected to have been manipulated.