Turkish PM Erdogan: 'Rachel's Tomb was never Jewish'

(JPost) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday continued his verbal assault on Israel, according to Saudi paper Al Wattan, which quoted him as saying that that al Aksa Mosque, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”

Erdogan was referring to Israel’s recent inclusion of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb on its national heritage list, but it was unclear why he mentioned the Aksa Mosque, since that site was not included.

Speaking to Palestinian journalists, Erdogan reportedly said, "Palestine [was] always at the top of Turkey’s priorities." He expressed his support for the renewal of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Donning a cloak of pan-Islamic identity, Erdogan told Al Wattan that he “loves my brothers in Fatah and my brothers in Hamas to the same degree, because they are my Muslim brothers and I cannot distinguish between them.”

Turkey’s prime minister began criticizing Israel in the wake of Operation Cast Lead last year, and has been punctilious in voicing his opinion on Israel’s actions since. In the recent past, he sharply criticized Israel during press conferences with the Lebanese prime minister and with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Turkey also recently distanced itself from the United States, withdrawing the ambassador from Washington after a congressional committee decided to recognize the killing of Armenians during World War I as a genocide. In a sign of tensions between Israel and Turkey, Ankara did not seek the help of Jewish lobbies in Washington, and these groups, which have traditionally advocated on behalf of Turkey, refrained this time from pressing Congress not to accept the resolution.

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