The President of Turkey was highly critical of Israeli actions and policies in his first interview to the Israeli media in more than a decade last night, despite a recent rapprochement between Israel and Turkey.
Speaking to Channel Two’s Ilana Dayan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I don’t agree with what Hitler did and I also don’t agree with what Israel did in Gaza. Therefore there’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric.”
He said that Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians was incomparable to the “thousands” killed by Israel in Gaza, noting the “nuclear and conventional weapons that Israel has”. Erdogan termed Hamas a political party and a “refugee movement born out nationalism”.
Erdogan also took aim at Israeli policy in Jerusalem, claiming that Israel was attempting to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount. He said: “Jerusalem is holy to three religions. You have to respect that.”
The interview became especially tense over the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, in which ten Turkish citizens were killed on a Gaza-bound protest ship, while attempting to prevent Israeli commandos from boarding the vessel. Erdogan said “it’s impossible” that the Israeli soldiers were acting in self-defence and that “we have all of the documents and evidence”.
When asked by Dayan about video footage which indicates to the contrary, Erdogan said: “Speak correctly. The fact that you’re a journalist shouldn’t prevent you from speaking correctly.”
Israel and Turkey recently finalised a reconciliation agreement, which ended a six-year hiatus in diplomatic ties following the Mavi Marmara incident. Under the agreement, Israel agreed to pay compensation for the incident and permit Turkey to provide aid and assistance in rebuilding the infrastructure of Gaza Turkey also agreed that terror groups such as Hamas will not be able to use the country as a base.
Last week, Israel and Turkey both named ambassadors to head their missions in the other’s capital.