Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has compared his Israeli counterpart to the assailants who murdered 17 people in Paris last week, in the latest scene of war of words between the leaders of the two countries.
Davutoglu said that Israel’s bombardments of Gaza and its storming in 2010 of an aid convoy headed there were on par with the Paris attacks.
“Netanyahu has committed crimes against humanity the same as those terrorists who carried out the Paris massacre,” he told a press conference in the capital Ankara on Thursday.
Victims including journalists and police officers died in the assault on the office of the Charlie Hebdo office last Wednesday and in a bloody hostage situation at a kosher supermarket two days later.
Relations between Turkey and Israel remain in crisis since May 2010 when Israeli troops raided the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship sailing in international waters and heading to the Gaza Strip to break the Israeli blockade there.
The incident left nine pro-Palestinian activists, eight Turks and one American citizen with Turkish origin dead onboard the ship.
Israel fought a 50-day war with armed groups in the Gaza Strip last year.
More than 2,300 Palestinians died, mostly civilians, by Israeli shelling that caused massive devastation, according to Gazan medical officials, while the Israeli death toll was 73, mostly soldiers.
Soli Ozel, a professor of International Relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University, said that before the war, Israel and Turkey were getting ready to exchange ambassadors.
“Israel bought Kurdish oil that was loaded to a tanker in Turkey and deposited the money in Halkbank [a Turkish state-owned bank] as Turkey wanted,” he told Al Jazeera.
The sale in question took place in June 2014.
Last weekend’s solidarity march in Paris after the attacks has escalated a new row between the two formerly allied countries.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s conservative president, condemned Benjamin Netanyahu for “daring” to attend the march on Monday and was countered by Israel’s far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who called Erdogan an “anti-Semitic bully” on Wednesday.
The Turkish government condemned the Paris attacks, but has also warned of the risk of rising Islamophobia.
Davutoglu also attended the Paris memorial rally, which he said was “a march against terrorism”.
“Just as the massacre in Paris committed by terrorists is a crime against humanity, Netanyahu, as the head of the government that kills children playing on the beach with the bombardment of Gaza, destroys thousands of homes … and that massacred our citizens on an aid ship in international waters, has committed crimes against humanity,” the prime minister said on Thursday.
“If Israel is looking for a bully, it needs to look in the mirror,” he said.
In a separate statement on Thursday, Erdogan’s spokesman said it was “Islamophobic and unacceptable” for Netanyahu to link the Paris bloodshed to Islam.
“The Israeli government must halt its aggressive and racist policies instead of attacking others and sheltering behind anti-Semitism,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on the presidential website.
At a speech in a synagogue in Paris last week, Netanyahu said: “A direct line leads between the attacks of extremist Islam around the world to the attack that took place here at a kosher supermarket in the heart of Paris.”
Hamas ‘not terrorist’
On Tuesday, Davutoglu said that his country did not regard Hamas a terrorist group.
“If their land was not occupied, there would be no need for the existence of Hamas and that is the reason why we do not see them as a terrorist movement,” he said.
Israeli politicians have various times blamed Turkey for “sponsoring terrorism”, saying the country is a base for Hamas.
“For five years now, cozy commercial relations and domestically useful mutual bashing go together,” Ozel told Al Jazeera.
“Harsh rhetoric against one another pays for both sides. One can also add the immense dislike between the leaders [Netanyahu and Erdogan] as another reason for current tense relations.”
The trade relations between Turkey and Israel remain strong, growing steadily amid harsh diplomatic rhetoric between leaders.
In 2013, in a phone call facilitated by US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologised to Erdogan, prime minister of the time, over loss of lives aboard Mavi Marmara. Al Jazeera