Israeli Defense Chief ‘Understands’ Turkey’s Criticism

Officials said the meeting between Davutoglu, left and Barak, right, was aimed at 'warming' ties.

ANKARA (Today’s Zaman)—Israeli’s defense chief dismissed on Sunday allegations that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Turkey and downplayed recent criticisms of Turkey’s Prime Minister who had leveled harsh remarks against Israel for the Gaza offensive.

Talking to a group of reporters at the embassy residency in Ankara, visiting Defense Minister Ehud Barak said “I do not see signs of anti-Semitism in Turkey unlike other countries in the world.” He said Turkish individuals had always helped liberate Jews, whether it was during the Spanish inquisition or under the Nazi regime in WWII. “Jews are accepted here [in Turkey],” Barak added.

Asked if he was concerned with the continuing criticism by TurkishPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan against Israeli policies in Palestine, Barak said he understands the position of Erdogan. “He speaks frankly, openly and in a transparent manner to our face” the defense minister said, stressing that “You cannot put a question mark on the judgment of Turkey.”

Barak also said the criticism of Erdogan stands in sharp contrast to what he described as an “unjust” UN report by Justice Richard Goldstone on the human rights violations committed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

While downplaying Turkey’s objections and concerns over the Palestinian territories, Barak said he hoped Turkey would understand Israeli motives in policies pursued by the current government. “We try to protect our citizens, which is our prime responsibility” he stressed. Nevertheless Israeli defense minister signaled that Israeli government understands Turkey’s position in the region “Obviously we want Turkey to be more pro-Israel. But you need to take a look at the whole picture in the region” he underlined.

“We tried to prepare the ground with the hope of starting new chapter with less friction” he remarked evaluating his meetings in Ankara.  “I will do my best not to see any breakup in ties with Turkey,” he added, noting, however, that “nobody can predict future in the Middle East.”

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