IDF: Officer's Criticism of Turkey Does Not Represent Official View

Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi told Haaretz that Turkey is in no position to judge Israel's recent operation in Gaza.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson on Saturday said that IDF Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi's recent criticism of Turkey does not reflect the official position of the IDF.

"While referring to the criticism of Israel by Turkey, Gen. Mizrahi made statements that could be interpreted as criticism of Turkey's past," said a statement by Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu, a spokesman for the IDF.

"The IDF spokesperson wishes to clarify that this is not the official position of the IDF."

Turkey earlier on Saturday called on Israel to explain remarks quoted in Haaretz by Mizrachi that questioned Turkish policies toward Kurds and Cyprus, saying ties between the Middle East allies could be at stake.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also on Saturday summoned Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy to protest comments by Mizrahi, commander of Israel's land forces.

Mizrahi was quoted as saying Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan should have "looked in the mirror" before slamming President Shimon Peres last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mizrachi also said that Turkey was not in a position to criticize Israel's actions in the Palestinian territories when it stations troops in northern Cyprus.

He also accused Turkey of repressing its Kurdish minority and massacring Armenians during World War I.

The Turkish military said on Saturday that Mizrachi's criticism threatened to harm relations between the two countries.

The flap was the latest sign of tension between Turkey and Israel, who maintain close military ties but whose alliance has been strained by the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

Erdogan accused Peres of "knowing very well how to kill" in a public debate last month at the World Economic Forum.

The Turkish General Staff, in a statement carried by the state-run Anatolian news agency, said Mizrahi's remarks were completely unacceptable.

"The comments have been assessed to be at the extent that the national interests between the two countries could be damaged," it said.

Turkey and Israel's military cooperation includes allowing Israeli jets to use Turkish airspace for training.

Erdogan told Reuters on Friday there were no plans to halt that agreement.

Turkey keeps about 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus after invading the island in 1974 to thwart a coup attempt by Greek Cypriots. It is the only country to recognize a Turkish Cypriot administration there.

Turkey has also fought a 25-year war against Kurdish separatists seeking to establish a homeland in the southeastern part of the country.

Turkey denies accusations that it committed genocide against 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.