Turkish Leader Slams Israel, Calls for Sanctions

Turkey’s relations with Israel continue to deteriorate, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan escalating his rhetoric against Israel in recent interviews, including arguing for sanctions on the Jewish state. Speaking with Time Magazine in an exclusive interview, Erdogan effectively called for the international community to impose sanctions on Israel over their dispute with the Palestinians, comparing the situation to sanctions passed on Iran. Iran has been accused of seeking illegal nuclear weapons.

The TIME Magazine article was published following an interview Erdogan gave to CNN in which he greatly exaggerated the casualties of war in accusing Israel of killing “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.” Erdogan contrasted that with Israeli casualties of terrorism without expressing any regret over the Israeli loss of life.

According to the transcript posted on the CNN website of a translated interview with Fareed Zakaria on his GPS program, Erdogan was quoted as saying, “I would like to see accurate statistics of how many Israelis have been killed by the bombs thrown by Palestinians or with the rockets that were launched by them, 10, 20, 100, 200, how many? Please document it… How do you think Palestine is capable of killing as many Israeli people as claimed?”

Erdogan also said the Israeli people continue to use the Holocaust and are “always acting as if they are the victims all the time.” Erdogan earlier claimed his issues were with the Israeli government, not with their people.

In response to Erdogan’s inflammatory comments, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Monday from Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The press statement termed the Turkish comments on the Holocaust and exaggerated Palestinian deaths as “incitement” that is both “mendacious and scandalous.”

It quoted Netanyahu as saying, “These are outrageous charges against Israel that have nothing to do with the facts.  The Holocaust was the worst crime in history perpetrated against our people.”

Netanyahu also responded to Erdogan’s calloused contrast of casualties in the conflict, with the press statement quoting the Israeli leader as saying, “Israel has lost thousands of its citizens to Palestinian terrorism.”

The surge in Erdogan’s criticism of Israel follows Turkey’s downgrading of diplomatic relations with Israel over the Gaza flotilla affair. Erdogan is demanding that Israel apologize for the deaths of nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship, which attempted to bust the Gaza blockade in May 2010.

Israeli soldiers commandeering the ship defended themselves after they were viciously attacked by people on board, with the activists killed in the ensuing conflict. Israel has expressed regret over the loss of life but has not formally apologized for its soldier’s actions, which it considers to be self-defense.

Erdogan also wants Israel to compensate the families of the deceased and remove the Gaza blockade, which is in place to prevent weapons smuggling to terrorists and has been substantially relaxed since the flotilla incident.

Erdogan was quoted as telling Zakaria on CNN that until Israel meets these demands, relations between the one-time allies will “never become normal again.”

(By Staff, www.themideastupdate.com, September 27, 2011)