Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has widened the diplomatic gap between his nation and Israel, after accusing the Israelis of using the Holocaust to justify "thousands" of deaths in Gaza, during remarks in a CNN interview. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Erdogan's comments "false" and "outrageous."
Questioning Israel's right to respond to terrorism coming from Gaza, Erdogan demanded to see statistics of how many Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attacks. Palestinian casualties numbered between "hundreds of thousands" or simply thousands, he claimed, higher than reported figures from any Palestinian source. He also called Israel's actions "inexplicable," adding that, "If you [Israel] want normalization [with Turkey] you have to take certain steps to restore peace and stop causing unrest."
Erdogan also explained how he feels Israel is using the Holocaust to carry out attacks on Gaza. "Israeli people are only resorting back to the issue of genocide in history. And using that genocide [the Holocaust] they are always acting as if they are the victims all the time," he stated. "So Germany has and is still paying its dues to Israel. But neither Turkey nor the Muslims in the region have such a problem [of genocide]; they have never exerted such cruelty on Israel. But Israel is very cruel in that regard. It shows no mercy," he added.
"Both allegations are false," Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post in an interview that will published in full before Wednesday's Rosh Hashanah holiday. "These are outrageous charges against Israel that have nothing to do with the facts." He also attacked Turkey's record on freedom of the press, citing OECD reports that singled out Turkish arrests of journalists and curtailing free press.
Erdogan's comments are in line with his desire for an increasingly Islamist foreign policy, including building relations with Iran and threatening Israel with war. On Sunday, he reiterated comments about Iranian-Turkish cooperation in counterterrorism, despite Iran's designation as a leading state sponsor of terror, especially against Israel. He also recently said that Turkish warships would escort future aid ships to Gaza, where Israel maintains a blockade against the territory's Hamas government.
"Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. They will see what our decisions will be on this subject. Our navy attack ships can be there at any moment," Erdogan told also told a news conference in Tunisia two weeks ago.