Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Muslims worldwide to “defend al-Aksa,” as the government’s decision late Monday night to remove controversial metal detectors at the site did not have an immediate calming effect.
Erdogan issued a blistering attack on Israel at a meeting in Turkey’s Parliament of his AKP Party.
“Israel has taken a dangerous path. By occupying the al-Aksa Mosque, Israel has exceeded the boundaries,” the Turkish president said, adding that Turkey recognizes Palestine with a capital in east Jerusalem and Israel with its capital in Tel Aviv.
He said that “Palestine’s” problems began with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
“By relying on its backers and the weapons at its disposal, Israel is making a mistake. I call on all Muslims around the world to go on a pilgrimage to al-Aksa, to Palestine – if they are able to – or find a way and help our brothers therein if they’re unable to travel. The more we defend al-Aksa, the fiercer the resistance will be. If Israeli soldiers are dirtying al-Aksa with their boots, the reason is we fail to defend it decently. Let’s defend Palestine just as we defend Mecca and Medina.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon responded by saying that the Turkish president’s words were “delusional” and “distorted.”
“He would do better to deal with the problems and difficulties in his country,” Nahshon said.
“The days of the Ottoman Empire are over,” Nahshon continued. “The capital of the Jewish people was, is and always will be Jerusalem. As opposed to the past, this is a city where the government is committed to its security, liberty, freedom of worship, and respect of the rights of all minorities.”
Those who live in glasshouses, Nahshon said, “should not throw stones.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said that Erdogan is “the last person” who can preach to Israel. “It is interesting what Erdogan will say to the Kurds and residents of northern Cyprus,” a PMO statement read.
Erdogan’s tirade was interpreted by some as part of an intra-Muslim battle for influence in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount. His reaction was in stark contrast to signals from Amman that removing the metal detectors would go far toward calming down the atmosphere. Jordan – through the Wakf Muslim religious trust – has administrative jurisdiction of the site.