If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had not called Israel a “terrorist state” and Hamas a “liberation organization” a few days ago, the visit he made today in Berlin would have been a formality. The words of the Turkish president in the context of the war in Gaza felt so bad in Germany that prior to that visit the tabloid Bild, the most read newspaper in the country, asked on the front page What did he who hates Israel come to look for? The agenda of issues discussed by Erdogan with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and later with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was extensive, but here only one thing was interesting: Would Erdogan dare to repeat his opinion about Israel on German soil and if he did, what? Will Scholz say?
Until the last moment, the holding of a joint press conference was not included in Erdogan’s visit, perhaps to avoid what happened last August with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, when, in reference, he said that Israel had committed 50 massacres of Palestinians since the middle of the last century. “50 massacres, 50 holocausts.” The German government spokesman hastily closed the press conference. Scholz was criticized for remaining silent.
The chancellor could not allow another mistake and therefore, in the media appearance he offered with Erdogan prior to their working dinner, Scholz was the first to bring up the topic. He positioned himself unambiguously on the side of Israel and defended its right, without limits, to the defense of the Jewish State in response to the Hamas attacks, although he said he regretted the suffering of the Palestinian population. “Israel’s right to exist is irrefutable for us. There is no place for anti-Semitism in our country,” Scholz said.
Erdogan was equally clear. “The world only talked about the Hamas attacks, but neglected Israel’s reaction and the deaths in Gaza. There is already 13,000 Palestinians killed, hospitals, mosques and churches have been bombed. As a Muslim, I react. Why don’t Christians do it too?” said the Turkish president. “They kill women, children and the elderly indiscriminately. Are we going to be silent about this? Are we not going to raise our voices? And, if we don’t raise our voices, if we don’t do anything, how will we pay the price of history?” he asked. It was the first time since Israel began the destruction of Gaza that a head of government has spoken in those terms in Germany.
The German chancellor, without losing his calm, reiterated his commitment to “humanitarian breaks” in Gaza, but he put Israel’s “right to self-defense” and the need to neutralize the threat posed by the Islamist group Hamas without being “questioned” about it.