President Reuven Rivlin called for restraint on Thursday in the wake of a fresh row between Israel and Turkey over the killing by Israeli forces of 60 Palestinians earlier this week during protests on the Gaza border.
Rivlin, who visited a Kibbutz near the Gaza Strip, called on both sides to calm their rhetorics and said that Israel was protecting its borders "from anyone who would like to affect the very existence of Israel."
The president also stated that "out of the 62 casualties on the Hamas side, 50 of them were Hamas terrorists, Hamas soldiers, and that shows a lot."
Rivlin's comments came two days after Turkey and Israel expelled each other's senior diplomats.
Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of Israel's response to the Gaza protests over the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, recalling its ambassadors from Tel Aviv and Washington and calling for an emergency meeting of Islamic nations on Friday.
President Tayyip Erdogan described Monday's events as genocide and called Israel a terrorist state. The Turkish government declared three days of mourning.
Turkey's Erdogan equates deadly Gaza violence to 'genocide,' May 14, 2018 (Reuters)
The dispute appears to mark the worst diplomatic crisis between the two regional powers since Israeli marines stormed an aid ship to enforce a naval blockade of Gaza in 2010, killing 10 Turkish activists and prompting a downgrade in diplomatic ties that lasted until 2016.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter Erdogan was in no position to "preach morality to us" because he supported the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza. "There is no doubt he well understands terrorism and slaughter," Netanyahu tweeted.
Erdogan tweeted back that Netanyahu was the leader of "an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people's lands for 60+ years in violation of UN resolutions," adding that he was criticising Turkey to deflect attention.