Turkish strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of being racist and becoming a state based on apartheid, following the passing of the Nation State Bill late last week. In response, Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu accused Erdogan of “massacring Syrians and Kurds.”
The Knesset’s decision to pass the bill was a controversial one within Israel, but it provoked a hailstorm of accusations from outside the country. “We reject the Israeli government’s efforts to establish an apartheid state,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter, referring to the legal segregation of blacks and whites in white-ruled South Africa.
Erdogan decried the bill – which passed with 62 lawmakers in favor and 55 against – declaring it a “racist step” and an effort to “legally erase the Palestinian people from their homelands. His country’s foreign ministry also weighed into the fracas, saying “it tramples on the principles of universal law and disregards the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu ratcheted up the war of words, with a strong rebuke to the Turkish president. “Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has jailed tens of thousands of his citizens. The fact that the great ‘democrator’ Erdogan is attacking the Nation-State Law is the greatest compliment for this law.
Turkey, under Erdogan’s rule, is becoming a dark dictatorship whereas Israel scrupulously maintains equal rights for all its citizens, both before and after the law,” he added.
The current imbroglio is another sign in the deterioration and downright chill in diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, which took a nosedive following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. A Turkish registered boat and filled with allegedly peaceful activists joining a Gaza flotilla to try and break Israel’s naval blockade on the embattled enclave, was raided by Israeli commandos. They did so, in response to evidence that many of the protesters were armed and not peaceful as claimed.
Despite the fact that Erdogan has positioned himself as a champion of the Palestinians, his latest interjection on their behalf may be seen as posturing – with analysts noting the strong economic ties that are still in place between the two countries.