Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchanged fierce words over the weekend, the Jerusalem Post reported, with Erdogan going as far as to say that Israel is a “terrorist state and occupier” and that Netanyahu is a “terrorist.”
The back and forth between the two leaders was a product of Friday’s march along the Gaza border that resulted in the deaths of eight Palestinians and more than 1,000 being injured by tear gas, live rounds and rubber-coated steel pellets fired by Israeli forces.
The march was the first of many proposed protests that will occur over the next six weeks as part of “The Great March of Return” leading up to the inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem around May 14.
“I strongly condemn the Israeli government over its inhumane attack,” Erdogan said of the incident, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Have you heard any noteworthy objections to the massacre by Israel that happened yesterday in Gaza from those who criticize the Afrin operation? This is the biggest proof of insincerity of those who fixate on us but say nothing about Israel using heavy weapons to attack people who are protesting on their own lands.”
Netanyahu was quick to respond to Erdogan’s comments, calling the Turkish leader’s remarks an April Fool’s joke.
“The most moral army in the world will not be lectured to by someone who for years has indiscriminately bombed civilian populations. Apparently, this is the way they mark April Fools’ Day in Ankara,” Netanyahu tweeted.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Netanyahu later added: “Erdogan is not used to people responding to him, but he should start getting used to it. Anyone who occupies northern Cyprus, invades the Kurdish strip and slaughters citizens in Afrin, should not lecture us about values and ethics.”
The war of words escalated when Erdogan once again responded to Netanyahu: “[Israel] has carried out a massacre in Gaza and Netanyahu is a terrorist. [Turkey] is dealing with terrorists. But you are not concerned about terrorists because you are a terror state.”
According to Turkey’s Daily Sabah news outlet, Erdogan also said: “I do not need to tell the world how cruel the Israeli army is. We can see what this terror state is doing by looking at the situation in Gaza and Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu has for some time refrained from responding to the Turkish president’s words, but this weekend’s exchange seemed to show that Netanyahu will not take criticism lightly.
Over the course of the next few months, with marches and protests likely ramping up, this presumably will not be the last confrontation between the two leaders.