Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 13, 2017. .
(photo credit: KAYHAN OZER/PRESIDENTIAL PALACE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
The Jews should appreciate how good they had it under the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday after Israel responded to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on the Temple Mount crisis by reminding him that the days of the Ottoman Empire are over.
“We condemn the presumptuous statement by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel regarding the remarks of our president on the recent developments at al-Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount],” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hüseyin Müftüoglu said. “At the Ottoman era, communities belonging to different religions and sects lived in peaceful coexistence and enjoyed freedom of worship for centuries. In this context, Jews would be expected to know best and appreciate the unique tolerance during the Ottoman era.”
Müftüoglu said that in Turkey today, “freedom of faith and worship are also safeguarded by the state.”
“Al-Haram al-Sharif, which is the third-most sacred site for all Muslims, ranks prominently among the highest priorities of the Islamic world,” he said.
“Therefore, the responsibility that rests with Israel is to urgently make common sense prevail, go back to the status quo at al-Haram al-Sharif and lift all the restrictions on the freedom of worship.”
On Wednesday, a day after Erdogan called on Muslims the world over to “defend” al-Aksa, and added that the boots of IDF soldiers were “dirtying” the site, he said that “Israel’s step back from the metal detector implementation that offends Muslims is right, but not enough.”
Speaking at an event on higher education in the Islamic world in Ankara, Erdogan continued: “Israel is attempting to damage the Islamic character of Jerusalem with new practices every day by taking advantage of the current weakness of Muslims.”
Those who criticize Turkey “whenever possible suddenly become silent when the issue is Palestine, Jerusalem, or Muslims’ rights or laws,” he added.
Those comments prompted the following response from Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon: “It’s absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, lectures Israel, the only true democracy in the region. The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.”
It was Nahshon’s statement about the Ottoman Empire, which he also said a day earlier after Erdogan’s first tirade regarding Jerusalem – adding that Erdogan’s comments were “delusional” and “distorted” – that triggered the response by the Turkish Foreign Ministry regarding how Jews should remember life under the Ottomans.
Israel and Turkey reestablished full diplomatic relations with an exchange of ambassadors in December 2016, more than five years after the MV Mavi Marmara flotilla incident sent relations between the two countries into a tailspin.