Less than a week after Turkey informed Israel that it was unwelcome in the Anatolian Eagle military exercise, Jerusalem-Ankara relations showed no signs of improving Tuesday, with the country's prime minister accusing Israel of firing phosphorus shells at innocent children during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
According to the Sabah newspaper, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told religious leaders on Monday, "While in some countries children are provided with comfort, peace, the most advanced education and health opportunities while other children are faced with poverty, destitution, helplessness, war, conflict, weapons of mass destruction and phosphorus bombs. We are forced to heed the sounds of persecution."
"Iraq was occupied. Baghdad and Basra were bombed while all of humanity watched as it was broadcast live on their television," Erdogan went on to say. "It was the same when phosphorus bombs were rained on innocent children in Gaza, the whole world, all of humanity, watched from their comfortable chairs and their safe havens. However, as all this was happening, unfortunately from time to time in international discussion platforms, the term 'Islamic terror' began to be used, and efforts were made to place blame on the Muslims and Islam."
Earlier Tuesday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni expressed her support for the government's efforts to mend Jerusalem-Ankara relations.
Speaking Monday to the Turkish TRT television network, Livni said the relations between Israel and Turkey were strategic, adding that these relations were irrespective of the type of government currently in Jerusalem and "there is no opposition or coalition" on this matter.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Livni said she coordinated the interview with the Foreign Ministry in advance. Livni served as foreign minister in the previous government, including during Operation Cast Lead, which Turkey was initially said to have cited as a reason for the drill's cancellation.
The former foreign minister said she supported the government's actions to end the crisis. She said what was on the line was not Turkish-Israeli relations but the division between states in the region.
Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, she said, was not directed at Gaza and its residents. Israel left Gaza, but in return, all it received were "thousands of rockets against our citizens," she said, stressing that the operation was directed against the rockets and those who launch them, and condemning Hamas for choosing to operate from within civilian areas.
Livni told the Turkish station that in meetings with Turkish officials when she was foreign minister, she saw more things connecting than separating the two countries, and said that Israeli-Turkish relations were productive for Turkey and its interests, not just for Israel.
Supporting the war on terror is not anti-Palestinian, it's anti-terror, Livni said, emphasizing that Hamas did not represent the Palestinians' national aspirations and did not advance them.