Turkey on Saturday announced the recalling of its ambassador to Israel, and the temporary breaking off of contacts with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to the soaring death toll in Gaza due to Israeli aerial and ground attacks.
Israel had already begun recalling some of its diplomats from Turkey exactly one week prior, after President Erdogan said Israel has been “openly committing war crimes”. Turkey’s foreign ministry has newly announced that its ambassador is being recalled “in view of the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza caused by the continuing attacks by Israel against civilians, and Israel’s refusal (to accept) a ceasefire”.
But Israel’s foreign ministry shot back, calling the move “another step by the Turkish president that sides with the Hamas terrorist organization.”
The death toll in Gaza has surpassed 9,500 – and Turkey earlier said it is seeking to present a war crimes case against Israel before the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). But Saturday saw Erdogan escalate his rhetoric further, stressing he’s holding Netanyahu personally responsible for the atrocities in the West Bank.
“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted him as saying; however, Erdogan also said, “Completely severing ties is not possible, especially in international diplomacy.”
Prior to Oct.7 the two countries had been working hard to mend and deepen relations. Historically, the Palestinian issues has been a sharp dividing line, but there were reports that progress in ties had been made.
Erdogan in an unprecedented personal critique of Netanyahu has said the Israeli prime minister has “lost the support of his own citizens.” He emphasized of Netanyahu further, “What he needs to do is take a step back and stop this.”
One week ago at a huge Gaza solidarity rally in Istanbul, Erdogan had told a crowd of hundreds of thousands, “Israel, we will also declare you as a war criminal to the world, we are preparing for it, and we will introduce Israel to the world as a war criminal,” according to a state broadcaster.
Reports of large-scale protests outside major US airbase in southern Turkey:
Using gas bombs and water cannons, Turkish security forces disperse thousands demonstrating outside the US military base of İncirlik in Adana province in protest of the Israeli genocide campaign in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/nvH6mWxljM
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) November 5, 2023
“Israel is committing war crimes” as an “occupier,” he said at the time, and added: the “West owes you, but Türkiye does not owe you.” At the same time Erdogan has been on record as calling Hamas a “liberation group” and not terrorists. It’s certainly all the more an interesting stance given Turkey is in NATO.