Photo Credit: OIC / screen capture
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Istanbul, Dec. 13 2017

On Monday, Turkey recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the United States, and expelled the Israel ambassador in outrage over the deaths of Gazans who stormed Israel’s security fence in an attempt to breach the border and carry out terror attacks on Israeli civilians, and over the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned back in December 2017 – when President Donald Trump first announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – that he would recall his ambassador from Washington if Trump kept his promise to move the American Embassy to Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv.

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The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was inaugurated in a joyful ceremony Monday led by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and attended by an American Presidential Delegation comprised of some 250 top U.S. leaders. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other top officials were present and spoke at the ceremony as well.

Erdogan made good on his threat within hours, announcing the removal of the ambassadors during a speech in London, and declaring three days of mourning to commemorate those who were killed during violence at the Gaza border. He added that as the Rotating Chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he will chair an extraordinary meeting Friday regarding the deaths. Erdogan also called on the United Nations Security Council to convene an emergency meeting, calling Israel a “terror state” that committed “a genocide” and referring to the deaths as a “massacre.”

In addition, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday, cursing Israel for its actions in defending its border with Gaza.

“We curse the massacre carried out by Israeli security forces on the Palestinians participating in peaceful demonstrations. Neither regional nor global peace and stability will be viable unless the Palestinian question is settled through a lasting and just solution and unfair treatments towards Palestinian people cease,” the statement read.

“We strongly condemn the decision of the U.S. Administration to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem violating international law and all relevant UN Resolutions. We reiterate that this action is legally null and void,” the statement added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with a brief statement, saying “Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us.”

“Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ yrs in violation of UN resolutions,” Erdogan tweeted later in the day on Monday. “He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can’t cover up crimes by attacking Turkey,” he added.

In response, Israel’s prime minister said, “The man who sends thousands of Turkish soldiers to maintain the occupation of northern Cyprus and invades Syria, will not preach to us when we defend ourselves against invasion by Hamas. A man whose hands are drenched in the blood of countless Kurdish civilians in Turkey and Syria is the last one who can preach to us about military ethics.”

By Tuesday, clearer heads seemed to prevail in Ankara.

“Turkey has recalled ambassadors from Tel Aviv and Washington for consultations,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told reporters in Turkey’s capital following a cabinet meeting.

Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday and told to “return to [his] country for a period of time,” according to another, unnamed Turkish foreign ministry official who spoke with reporters.

Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon said Tuesday the decision would not halt the security cooperation between the two nations.

“We continue to work with our close NATO ally, Turkey, on a variety of mutual security concerns,” he said. “They continue to be an indispensable partner in operations to defeat ISIS.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this report erroneously stated that Turkey also expelled the US ambassador from Ankara. JewishPress.com regrets the error.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.