Turkish Army Furious Over IDF Officer's Comments

The Turkish military warned yesterday that relations between Jerusalem and Ankara are in a state that "could compromise the national interests of both Israel and Turkey." The rare statement on foreign policy follows the diplomatic row due to Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza.

Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi - the recently appointed head of Israel's ground forces - has questioned Turkish policies toward Kurds and Cyprus. Turkey yesterday called on Israel's ambassador to Ankara, Gabi Levy, to explain Mizrahi's remarks. Mizrahi, who previously served as a military attache to the United States, also accused Turkey of oppressing its Kurdish minority and massacring Armenians during World War I.

The Turkish Armed Forces keep around 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus after having invaded the island in 1974. Turkey is the only country to recognize a Turkish Cypriot administration there. Turkey has also fought a 25-year war against Kurdish separatists, and denies accusations that it committed genocide against 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.

Mizrahi has said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should have "looked in the mirror" before slamming President Shimon Peres last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During the forum, Erdogan became enraged over being cut off by a panel moderator after listening to Peres defend Operation Cast Lead. Peres' defense was prompted by harsh criticism of Israel by Erdogan, who said to Peres: "You are killing people."

An official in Turkey's Justice and Development Party told Haaretz that "the statements of an Israeli general against Turkey and its prime minister are an unacceptable insult, and we hope that Israel's government will publicly distance itself from these remarks."

Mizrahi's remarks made front-page news in Turkey and were given prominence in Turkish-language news sites, which described them as "unusual."

The Turkish prime minister opted for some unusual statements himself yesterday, when he was pessimistic about the results of the Israeli election.

"Unfortunately we have seen that the [Israeli] people have voted for these [rightist] parties, and that makes me a bit sad," Erdogan told Reuters and two Turkish newspapers in an interview. "Unfortunately the election has painted a very dark picture."

Anshel Pfeffer and Barak Ravid contributed to this article.