Erdogan slams Israeli crimes against Palestinians, drawing sharp rebuke

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP photo)
Updated 08 May 2017
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Erdogan slams Israeli crimes against Palestinians, drawing sharp rebuke

ANKARA/JERUSALEM: Barely a year after reconciling and restoring diplomatic ties, Turkey and Israel were back at each other's throat on Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Muslims to stand up for the Palestinian cause, saying each day that Jerusalem remains under “occupation” is an insult to them. His words drew strong criticism from Israel, which called him a "serial human rights violator."
Speaking in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan compared Israeli actions against Palestinians to those of South Africa under Apartheid and said the United States must drop plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Erdogan, a fervent supporter of Palestinians, normalized relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over the 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that killed 10 Turkish activists.
On Monday, he vowed to prevent a draft bill being advanced in Israel that would prevent the use of speakers mounted on minarets to summon Muslims for prayer overnight.
The bill, which was approved by ministers in February but has yet to be adopted by parliament, would apply to mosques in Israel as well as annexed Arab east Jerusalem, but not to the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site.
“God willing, we will never allow the silencing of azan (call to prayers) in the skies of Jerusalem,” Erdogan said at the International Jerusalem Foundations Forum in Istanbul.
Erdogan accused Israel of keeping Jerusalem “without the Muslims.”
“What’s the difference of Israel’s current practices from the racist and discriminatory policies implemented toward the blacks in America in the past, and in South Africa more recently?” he asked.
The Turkish president also spoke out against the possibility of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that even “relocating a stone” in the Holy City could have serious implications.
“The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda,” he said.

‘Serial human rights violator’
The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Erdogan of “systematically” violating human rights and said he “should not preach morality.”
“Whoever systematically violates human rights in their own country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region,” said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so despite the baseless smears launched against it,” he said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump had promised during his campaign to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, whose status is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.
Israel supports the US moving its embassy.


Far behind in polls, Israel’s Livni quits politics

Updated 7 min 21 sec ago
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Far behind in polls, Israel’s Livni quits politics

TEL AVIV: Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, whose party has trailed far behind in polls ahead of April 9 elections, announced Monday she was retiring from politics.
Livni, who gained international recognition in part thanks to her past role as a negotiator with the Palestinians, also said her Hatnua party would not run in the elections.
The 60-year-old said in a statement before journalists in Tel Aviv she was bringing her party to “an end ... knowing I did all I could for my beloved state and to unite the forces that would fight for it. It’s not up to me any more.”
Livni, who also previously served in the Mossad spy agency, narrowly missed out on becoming prime minister after 2009 elections.
She had recently helped lead Israel’s main opposition, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, but a split in January ended the arrangement that also included the Labour party.
Labour party leader Avi Gabbay dramatically announced then that he would no longer partner with Livni as she sat stone-faced next to him.
While the Zionist Union won the second-most seats in the last general election in 2015, it more recently tumbled in opinion polls.
Livni sought to mount a campaign for April 9 elections outside the Zionist Union, but struggled to gain any traction or form the large alliance she sought.
Labour and Gabbay have also faltered in opinion polls.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to remain premier after the elections, polls consistently show, despite a series of corruption investigations into his affairs.
The attorney general is however expected to announce in the coming weeks whether he intends to indict Netanyahu, and an announcement before the elections could shake up the campaign.
The right-wing prime minister’s main challenger is seen as former military chief of staff Benny Gantz and his centrist Israel Resilience party.