Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “oppressor” after he accused Turkey of “massacres” against Kurds in a new war of words.
Netanyahu hit back in a speech later Sunday, calling Erdogan an “anti-Semitic dictator” who is “obsessed with Israel.”
Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense this year over multiple issues including a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July which defined the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
“You are an oppressor, cruel and at the head of state terror,” Erdogan said of Netanyahu.
In a televised speech in Istanbul, the president also accused Israel of “occupying Palestine” as well as committing “sins, crimes against humanity, massacres”.
The latest diplomatic row began after Erdogan warned young Turks on Saturday: “Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground. You are not a Jew in Israel.”
Netanyahu told Erdogan in a tweet late on Saturday that he “should not preach to Israel” as “the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey”.
Before Erdogan’s comments on Sunday, his chief advisor Ibrahim Kalin hit out in a tweet at Netanyahu who he accused of using Erdogan “bashing… as a political chip” in a bid to save himself “from his domestic troubles”.
On December 14, Erdogan also said Palestinians were subjected to “pressures, violence and intimidation policies no less grave than the oppression done to the Jews during the Second World War”, referring to the Holocaust.
Turkey-Israel ties have been strained since Ankara ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave Turkey in May over the killing of protesters along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinians, has bitterly criticised Israel previously, calling it in July “the world’s most fascist and racist state”.
However, despite the heated rhetoric, experts point to strong economic ties and robust trade between the two countries.