Israel tells Turkey to ‘not preach democracy’ over Jerusalem prayer call

Israel and Turkey flags fly side by side (Photo: Reuters)

Israel’s foreign ministry has released a statement blasting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticism of an Israeli parliament bill proposing to ban the use of loudspeakers in the call for morning prayers in Jerusalem.

“Those who systematically violate human rights in their own country should not preach to the only true democracy in the region. Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians – and will continue to do so despite the baseless slander launched against it,” the statement read.

A senior Israeli politician on Tuesday also spoke to Turkey’s ambassador Kemal Okem on the phone and conveyed the same message the Jerusalem Post reported.

In a public speech on Monday at the International Forum on Al-Quds Waqfs (Foundations), Erdogan had said Turkey would not allow the “silence of prayers from the heavens of Jerusalem” and urged more Turkish Muslims to visit the Temple Mount.

“A draft bill, which aims to ban the call for morning prayers in mosques [in Jerusalem], is still waiting in the Israeli parliament. The fact that such an issue is even coming to the agenda is shameful. The fact that those who talk about freedom of thought and faith at every opportunity actually approve this step by remaining silent is noteworthy. Inshallah, we will not allow the silencing of prayers from the heavens of Jerusalem.”

The president, who was recently afforded sweeping powers after marginally winning a referendum blighted with claims of fraud also said the only solution to the Israel-Palestine issue was a “fully sovereign independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 1967,” reported state-run Anadolu news agency.

Ankara and Tel Aviv reached a deal to normalise diplomatic relations last year after almost six years of tensions following the killing of nine Turkish nationals by Israeli forces on an aid flotilla headed to Gaza.

Erdogan has been accused by critics of using the Palestinian issue to strengthen his support at home and in Islamist circles across the Middle East and North Africa. Turkey is expected to play a role in possible peace talks as it holds sway over Hamas and may bring the group, which recently declared a new political programme, on board talks.

Turkey was the first Muslim majority country to recognise Israel in 1949.