Israel speaks to Turkish envoy over Erdogan comments

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during Istanbul Youth Festival in Istanbul on May 4, 2017. / AFP / OZAN KOSE

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli official telephoned Turkey's ambassador Tuesday to express indignation over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the Jewish state of apartheid and anti-Muslim discrimination, diplomatic sources said.

Foreign ministry director general Yuval Rotem spoke with ambassador Kemal Okem at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's behest, the Israeli sources said.

Israel had said in a statement Monday night, in a reference to Erdogan, that those who "systematically violate human rights in their own country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region."

It also rejected "baseless smears" from the Turkish leader.

Erdogan has vowed to prevent a draft bill being advanced in Israel that would prevent the use of speakers mounted on minarets to summon Muslims to prayer and accused Israel of apartheid practices.

"What's the difference in Israel's current practices from the racist and discriminatory policies implemented towards the blacks in America in the past, and in South Africa more recently?" he asked at the International Jerusalem Foundations Forum in Istanbul.

Erdogan, a fervent supporter of Palestinians, normalized relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship that killed 10 Turkish activists.

Israeli parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein lashed out at Erdogan Tuesday, telling public radio that "one mustn't forget: Erdogan was an enemy and will remain one."

"As long as Erdogan leads Turkey the ties (with Israel) won't return to what they were," Edelstein wrote on his Twitter account.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, however, said that Turkey and Israel need their ties.

"We must keep correct relations with them," Galant told army radio.

"The fact that from time to time (Erdogan) makes inflammatory remarks that reflect his own rhetorical political interests -- let him talk, we know how to talk too."

"When it comes to practice, I think the Turks have other interests," Galant said, pointing to the number of Israeli tourists who visit Turkey and the possibility of building a pipeline to Turkey to export natural gas from Israel.





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