Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Saturday lambasted his Turkish counterpart, Tayyep Recep Erdogan, over the latter's "anti-Semitic" remarks, in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
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Netanyahu told Kerry that Erdogan's recent remarks, accusing Israel of massacring Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and carrying out war crimes worse than those if Hitler and the Nazis, were anti-Semitic and desecrated the memory of the Holocaust.
Kerry's spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday called Erdogan's statements "offensive and wrong," adding that "of course, this kind of provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a cease-fire."
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has recalled the families of Israeli diplomats in Turkey and issued a travel advisory recommending Israelis refrain from traveling to the country, in the wake of Erdogan’s sharp attacks on Israel, as well as violent demonstrations against the Israeli embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul.
On Thursday night, thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, including some from the IHH Relief Foundation which organized the flotilla to Gaza in 2010, gathered around the offices of the two Israeli delegations, in Ankara and Istanbul. In the course of the demonstration in Istanbul, some demonstrators managed to get into the outer courtyard of the consulate, throwing rocks and breaking windows. In Ankara, demonstrators scaled the walls of the ambassador’s house and hoisted the Palestinian flag. The police removed them as they were about to break into the ambassador’s house.
Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry stated that the violent demonstrations occurred after incitement by Turkey’s prime minister, as well as by Ankara’s mayor Melih Gokcek, who also claimed that Israel was perpetrating genocide in Gaza, “ten times worse than that conducted by Hitler.” These officials added that Israel requested Turkish defense authorities to augment the protection of Israeli facilities, but that Turkish security forces did not do their job during the demonstrations in order to prevent the outbreak of violence.
Following these incidents, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the evacuation of the families of Israeli diplomats in Turkey and a reduction of diplomatic staff there to the bare minimum. Lieberman also instructed officials to lodge an official protest, claiming a breach of accepted diplomatic norms and of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which obliges countries to protect foreign diplomats on their soil. “We place the responsibility for the safety and well-being of our diplomats on the government of Turkey,” said Lieberman.