Israel's Foreign Ministry Protests Erdogan's Speech on Jerusalem

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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (center) visits the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, May 3, 2017.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (center) visits the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, May 3, 2017. Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP

The Foreign Ministry protested on Tuesday a speech made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, senior ministry officials said.

Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem spoke by phone on Tuesday to Kemal Okem, Turkey's ambassador to Israel, to express Israel's displeasure with the speech, in which Erdogan lashed out at Israeli policy regarding the West Bank and Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Ministry sources said Rotem told Okem that Israel does not expect Turkey to preach to Israel about human rights when Turkey violates them itself. Rotem also reportedly told Okem that Israel protects religious freedom for adherents of all religious groups, particularly when it comes to the Temple Mount.

A senior Foreign Ministry official noted that Rotem spoke with the ambassador at the instruction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, to ensure that the public protest regarding Erdogan’s speech issued by the ministry on Monday was also conveyed through official diplomatic channels. Israel made its position clear and from its standpoint the matter is closed, the ministry official said.

At a conference on Jerusalem held in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan called on Turks and Muslims across the world to voice support for the Palestinian struggle. "As a Muslim community, we need to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque often, each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us," he said.

Erdogan said Turkey backs Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and attributes significant importance to it. He also called Israel's policy toward the Palestinians in the West Bank racist, discriminatory and reminiscent of apartheid.

Erdogan also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and other top Palestinian officials in Istanbul on Monday and discussed "ways to support Jerusalem," according to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an. The Turkish prime minister "confirmed the necessity of unifying efforts to protect Jerusalem against attempts of Judaization" during the meeting, Ma'an reported.