Israel on Tuesday asked Turkish Ambassador Kemal Okem to clarify matters following an incendiary speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he accused Israel of mistreating Muslims and of trying to “Judaize” Har Habayis.
Erdogan also singled out the proposed Muezzin law to ban the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers overnight.
“The bill to ban the adhan [call to prayer] is pending at the Israeli parliament,” Erdogan said. “It is disgraceful for those who lecture us about the freedom of religion to turn a blind eye to this attempt. Turkey will not let these attempts against freedom of belief to prevail.”
The Israeli foreign ministry quickly responded on Monday night, calling the allegations baseless, and on Tuesday President Reuven Rivlin effectively ridiculed the “Judaization” claim, though without naming Erdogan:
“I must tell these people, for the last 150 years there has been a Jewish majority in Yerushalayim. Even under the Ottoman Empire, there was a Jewish majority in Yerushalayim,” said Rivlin, whose family has lived in the city since 1809.
Yerushalayim mayor Nir Barkat added his own indignation, and named the antagonist in Ankara: “It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Yerushalayim for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city,” the mayor said.
“Unlike during the Turkish occupation, Yerushalayim under Israeli sovereignty is a flourishing, open and free city that allows freedom of religion and worship for all. In recent years, record numbers of Muslims have visited the Temple Mount and held prayers, exercising their absolute freedom of religion under Israeli sovereignty.”
Israeli officials expressed hope on Tuesday that the row has already blown over, after the phone conversation between Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem and the Ambassador Okem, according to Israel Radio.