President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed Benjamin Netanyahu as a "tyrant" after the Israeli Prime Minister called Turkey's leader an "anti-Semitic dictator" and implied that the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and Israel's occupation of Palestine are the same.
"By accusing [Turkey] of invasion in Cyprus," said Erdoğan in Istanbul on Sunday, "the Israeli Prime Minister may have confused his language. Rather, he wanted to say that they are invading Palestine and murdering women and children."
The Turkish President added that Netanyahu is banging on the wrong door: "Erdoğan is the voice of the oppressed, you are the voice of the tyrants. Netanyahu, you are the tyrant. Turkey is fighting terrorists. Israeli slaughterers have no right to blame anyone if they do not give their own account first."
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu joined the fray when he called Netanyahu "a cold-blooded killer of modern times."
Erdoğan's remarks were a response to a tweet posted by Netanyahu earlier in the day in which he criticised the Turkish presence in the north of Cyprus: "Erdoğan – the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey – should not preach to Israel." The Israeli leader's allegation that Erdoğan is an "anti-Semitic dictator" was made in a speech to Israeli soldiers in Tel-Aviv.
The latest verbal assault on Erdoğan and his country comes just as the Trump administration in Washington is cosying up to Turkey, with the recently announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria being coordinated with Ankara. One of the main reasons for Trump taking the surprising decision to pull the troops out is his faith in Erdoğan to be able to deal with the Daesh remnants left in the region.
Israeli officials often try to deflect criticism of the Zionist state by claiming parity with territorial conflicts elsewhere. Observers, however, point out that the Israeli occupation of Palestine is not a simple dispute over territory but an ongoing settler-colonial project that began with the ethnic cleansing of half the indigenous population and continues to this day. The Israeli occupation denies 11 million Palestinians around the globe of their right to return to their land. Those who live under the Israeli occupation face daily harassment, military checkpoints, the siege of Gaza and a system of apartheid that violates their basic rights.