WASHINGTON – Israel envoy criticized Ankara’s outreach to terrorist groups Friday, the same day that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Hamas is not a terrorist organization.
“Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction,” Ambassador Michael Oren declared.
“Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much,
over the last few years,” he said. “Under a different government with
an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”
But Oren, speaking on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, held out hope for reconciliation.
“We certainly do not have any desire in any further deterioration in
our relations with the Turks,” he said. “It’s an important Middle
Eastern power. It has been a friend in the past.”
Erdogan on Friday declared at a rally that Hamas is not a terrorist
organization, but a resistance movement, according to the
Istanbul-based daily Hürriyet
Erdogan said that Hamas, the legitimate winner of the Palestinian elections, was fighting for its land.
“You are always talking about democracy. You’ll never let Hamas rule.
What kind of democracy is this?” he said, apparently addressing the
“I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization,” Erdogan was
quoted as saying. “They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for
their own land.”
The Turkish leader went on to echo Tuesday’s speech, in which he called Israel’s boarding of the Gaza flotilla “a massacre.”
In his address Friday, he said the Ten Commandments should have
deterred the soldiers from killing the nine men who died onboard the Mavi Marmara
“If you do not understand it in Turkish, I will say it in English: You
shall not kill,” he reportedly said – repeating the phrase in Hebrew.
“They even slaughtered 19-year-old Furkan. They did not even care for the babies in the cradle,” Erdogan said.
Nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American was the youngest of
the nine activists killed in the raid. His funeral Friday in his
family’s hometown in Kayseri in central Turkey drew 10,000 people, some
chanting, “Down with Israel.”
“Neither I nor his mother or brother have any grief,” his father, Ahmet
Dogan, told The Associated Press as he arranged flowers on his son’s
coffin before prayers started. “We believe he became a martyr and God
accepts martyrs to paradise.”
In his speech, Erdogan also slammed Turkish media reports that were
critical of his Justice and Development Party’s support of Hamas,
saying the “columnists” had a slanted view of the events.
Earlier on Friday, Turkey’s deputy prime minister said his country
would work to reduce its military and economic cooperation with Israel.
Existing contracts would be reviewed and reworked or canceled, he said.
AP contributed to this report