Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s envoys on Tuesday in an escalating diplomatic dispute over the killing by Israeli forces of 60 Palestinians a day during protests on the Gaza border.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry ordered Israeli Ambassador Eitan Naeh to leave the country for consultations for an undetermined period of time. In response, Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem, Husnu Gurcan Turkoglu, who is responsible for Turkey’s relations with the Palestinians, to return home for consultations. Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv had already been recalled, as had Turkey’s ambassador in Washington.
In response to Israel expelling the Turkish envoy, Turkey summoned Israel’s consul general in Istanbul, Yossi Levi Safri, and also asked him to leave the country.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that “Netanyahu is the PM of an apartheid state. … He has the blood of Palestinians on his hands and can’t cover up crimes by attacking Turkey.” Commenting on Twitter, the Turkish president said Israel has been occupying the land of defenseless people in violation of United Nations resolutions. He suggested that Netanyahu consult the Ten Commandments if he wants a lesson in humanity.
In return, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Erdogan. “A man who sends thousands of Turkish soldiers to hold the occupation of northern Cyprus and invades Syria will not preach to us when we defend ourselves from an attempt by Hamas. A man whose hands are stained with the blood of countless Kurdish citizens in Turkey and Syria is the last person to preach to us about combat ethics.”
In September 2011, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel, recalled its ambassador in Tel Aviv and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara in response to a UN inquiry that found Israel had not violated international law when it commandeered a Turkish flotilla in 2010 that was trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Ten passengers on one ship, the Mavi Marmara, were killed in the confrontation.
In a 2016 reconciliation deal, Israel transferred $20 million to a fund set up by the Turkish government to financially compensate the Turkish victims’ families.
Meanwhile, Belgium summoned the Israeli ambassador, Simona Frankel, to a meeting Wednesday with at its Foreign Ministry as diplomatic fallout from the bloodshed in Gaza continued. Belgium’s prime minister on Monday called for an international probe of the events in Gaza while linking them to the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
The Irish government also summoned the Israeli ambassador, Zeev Boker, over the Gaza killings. Ireland has called for an independent UN investigation.
On Monday, South Africa recalled its ambassador in Israel. “The South Africa government condemns in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said. Other countries, including France and Germany, have condemned Israel’s reaction to Monday’s protests. Australia, on the other hand, has blamed Hamas for “confrontational” conduct.
In an unusual move, the United Nations Security Council held a moment of silence for “Palestinian and Israeli victims.”