Turkey says Jews should 'appreciate' Ottoman Empire, Israel says its 'days have passed'

Turkey says Jews should 'appreciate' Ottoman Empire, Israel says its 'days have passed'
As tensions over the Temple Mount continue to rise, Ankara says that Jews should treasure the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, when all religions enjoyed freedom of worship. Israel says it's absurd for Turkey to lecture the "only democracy" in the region.

Ankara, along with Tel Aviv, has been vocal regarding the spat over Israel's security measures in and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a site which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.

On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Jews should place value on the fact that religious tolerance flourished during Ottoman rule in Jerusalem.

“At the Ottoman era, communities belonging to different religions and sects lived in peaceful co-existence and enjoyed freedom of worship for centuries,”reads a statement by ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu.

“In this context, Jews would be expected to know best and appreciate the unique tolerance during the Ottoman era," it continues. 

Recalling the seizure of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War, Muftuoglu said “the responsibility that rests with Israel is to urgently make common sense prevail, go back to the status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”

Israel immediately responded, with the foreign ministry writing in a statement that "it's absurd that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, brutally represses the Kurdish minority and jails journalists, should lecture Israel, the only true democracy in the region.”

It added that “the days of the Ottoman Empire have passed.”
The modern-day territories of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including Jerusalem, were under Turkish rule between 1517 and 1917.

The heated war of words broke out on Tuesday, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Muslims to go to Jerusalem to support their brothers in faith and protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina – from Israeli actions.

“If today Israeli soldiers are heedlessly able to soil the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque with their boots citing trivial incidents as a pretext, and if Muslims’ blood is being easily shed there, then the reason for it is our failure to defend Al-Quds [Jerusalem] strongly enough," Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Erdogan added that the Ottomans had acted in Jerusalem “with such great delicacy and sensitivity that it is impossible not to remember them with gratitude and longing given today’s cruelty."

He also accused Israel of using excessive force against Palestinians, prompting Tel Aviv to point out Ankara's own conflicts.

“It would be interesting to see what Erdogan would say to the residents of northern Cyprus or to the Kurds,” the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Wednesday, as cited by the Times of Israel

“The days of the Ottoman Empire have passed. Jerusalem was, is, and will always be the capital of the Jewish people,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. “Those who live in glass palaces should be wary of casting stones.”

Clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli forces have taken place outside the Temple Mount since Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the holy site earlier this month. Israeli authorities have agreed to dismantle the installations following repeated warnings from the Arab League, but have vowed to replace them with technologically advanced security cameras.