By Mara Vigevani/TPS
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “thanked” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Tuesday for the latter’s blistering criticism of the new nation-state law, saying that criticism is the greatest compliment the Turkish leader could pay to the measure.
Earlier in the day, Erdoğan said Israel is a “fascist and racist country,” prompting Netanyahu to launch a counter-offensive..
“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has jailed tens of thousands of his citizens. The fact that the great ‘dictator’ Erdogan is attacking the Nation-State Law is the greatest compliment for this law,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“Turkey, under Erdogan’s rule, is becoming a dark dictatorship whereas Israel scrupulously maintains equal rights for all its citizens, both before and after the law,” he added.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett also lined up against Erdoğan, writing on Twitter that Israel “will not be preached to by a dictator who persecutes and murders the Kurdish minority in his country and abroad.”
The exchange was the latest round in a long string of arguments between Erdoğan and Israeli leaders, dating back more than a decade. In 2007, he notably stormed off stage during a joint appearance with then-President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2007, and more recently has called Netanyahu a “terrorist.” In addition, he recalled Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oğuz Çelikkol in May, 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident in which 10 Turkish nationals died after attacking Israeli Navy Seals who had boarded the vessel in order to enforce the naval blockade of Gaza, and full ties were not restored until Israel apologised and agreed to pay damages to the families in 2016.
At the same time, however, economic ties between Israel and Turkey have remained strong. In 2017 bilateral trade totaled $4.3 billion, an increase of 11% from the previous year, not including civil aviation. Turkish Airlines is the number one foreign airline operating in Israel, with more than a million passengers traveling to and from Israel a year.