Erdogan Urges Muslim Ascent to Har Habayis

Erdogan, Muslim, Har Habayis
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the ruling AK Party’s headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, last week. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Israel and Turkey have recently renewed diplomatic relations after a six-year estrangement, but that did not prevent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from issuing an inflamatory call to Muslims to ascend Har Habayis.

Erdoğan told the International Forum on Al-Quds in Istanbul on Monday that “each day that Yerushalayim is under occupation is an insult to us,” and urged Muslims to visit “the Al-Aqsa Mosque often,” and called Israeli treatment of Muslims “racist and discriminatory” according to media reports.

The Israeli foreign ministry denounced Erdogan’s criticism of Israel as “baseless slander.”

“Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country should not preach about morality to the only genuine democracy in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so…” the ministry said.

For several months during 2016, Har Habayis was the focal point of incitement and violence, amid Palestinian and Muslim allegations that the Israeli government was seeking to take it over. In addition to repeated denials of any such intention, Prime Minister Netanyahu banned visits to the site by Knesset members both Jewish and Muslim to reduce tensions.

The Turkish leader again railed at the Israeli blockade of Gaza and said that peace in the region will not be possible without “an appropriate and just solution to the Palestinian problem.”

He described that solution as “the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Yerushalayim as its capital and with the 1967 borders.”

Regarding the much-discussed possibility that the U.S. will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, Erdoğan rejected the idea as “extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda.”