JERUSALEM – Israel and Turkey exchanged diplomatic barbs Wednesday as the spat between the former allies continued to escalate following deadly violence along Israel's border with Gaza.
A day after it expelled the Israeli ambassador, Turkey asked Israel's consul general in Istanbul to leave as well. Israel, in turn, summoned a top Turkish diplomat to be reprimanded for the humiliation of Israel's ambassador as he was kicked out of the country.
The exchanges came less than two years after the countries reconciled and exchanged ambassadors after six years of animosity. Once close allies in an Arab-dominated neighborhood, Israel and Turkey's ties began to decline after now-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, first came to power as prime minister in 2003. Relations imploded in 2010 after a confrontation between Israeli commandos and a pro-Islamic Turkish flotilla trying to breach the blockade of Gaza left 10 Turkish activists dead.
Erdogan has since often lashed out at Israel over its clashes with Hamas militants in Gaza and he led the international criticism of Israel after nearly 60 Palestinians were killed Monday in the bloodiest day of cross-border violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. He also ratcheted up his rhetoric against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted that a "man whose hands are drenched in the blood of countless Kurdish civilians in Turkey and Syria is the last one who can preach to us about military ethics."
Israel's Foreign Ministry summoned a top Turkish diplomat Tuesday to reprimand him for Turkey's treatment of Israeli ambassador Eitan Naeh. The ministry accused Turkey of subjecting Naeh to a particularly severe security screening at the airport in Istanbul and inviting local Turkish media to capture the humiliation of him being frisked and forced to remove his shoes and jacket.
The meeting in Jerusalem with the Turkish deputy ambassador, Umut Deniz, lasted about 20 minutes. He was asked to present his documents upon entering and made no comment to a crowd of reporters as he left the building. He then walked to a waiting van, slammed the door shut and it drove away.
Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel expressed "our concern and our dismay at a gross violation of the diplomatic ethics."
"The images of our ambassador being subjected to an unnecessary security check are spread all over Turkey," he said. "This is something we cannot accept, this is something that is totally contrary to diplomatic relations between countries and a public humiliation of an ambassador is something that Israel will not accept under any circumstances."
Associated Press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.