UPDATE: Doubling down on his Sunday comments, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday accused Israel of engaging in “ethnic cleansing.” A strange choice of words considering Turkey’s genocide of ethnic Armenians. For reference, 1.5 million of the 2.5 million Armenians then-living in the Ottoman Empire were killed by the “Young Turk” government in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1922-23).
Erdogan’s comments, and moreover, the administration’s silence, drew the ire of one AP reporter who challenged a State Department spokeswoman on Tuesday. Reporter Matt Lee demanded to know why the administration has remained silent on the Turkish PM’s slanderous accusations.
When one wonders just how quickly and severely relations between Egypt and Israel can deteriorate, one only needs look at Turkey, the first Muslim country to ever recognize the State of Israel. In 2010, Turkey, led by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, turned on the Jewish State after decades of shared cooperation over the now-infamous Gaza flotilla incident. With the growing hardline Islamist bend of Erdogan, who also happens to share a collegial relationship with President Obama, Turkey has made its disdain no secret, condemning Israel’s defensive strikes on Gaza and calling it a “terrorist state” Sunday.
During a conference of the Eurasian Islamic Council in Istanbul, the Turkish PM said, “those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza.”
“For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts,” he said.
For reference, nine Turks were among those killed on the first Gaza flotilla in 2010 after Israeli Defense Forces learned that rather than humanitarian aid, the vessel was in fact carrying weapons with which to arm Palestinian militants to use against the Jewish State.
As a result, Ankara expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation — even after a U.N. report “largely exonerated the Jewish state,” according to Reuters.
Now, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is slated to travel to Gaza Tuesday with a group of foreign ministers from the Arab League, including Egypt.
Erdogan’s comments are far from diplomatic and clearly convey Turkey’s allegiance with Islamists bent on Israel’s destruction. A dismal turn of events considering the strong relationship between Israel and Turkey was once credited with having the potential to transform the Middle East for the better. Now, as the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt also hangs in the balance, Israel’s enemies are growing rapidly.