Peres at Davos after Erdogan storms out
Photo: AFP

Peres: Outburst won't hurt Israel-Turkey ties

President says his heated public exchange with Turkish PM Erdogan was not personal, defends his unusually passionate speech as called for in response to verbal assaults on Israel over Gaza

President Shimon Peres said Friday his heated public exchange with Turkey's prime minister was not personal and ties between the two nations won't change.


Peres defended his unusually passionate speech at a session of the World Economic Forum Thursday night as called for in response to the verbal assaults on Israel over its war in Gaza against Hamas.


The remarks raised the emotions of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stalked off the stage after a moderator insisted on cutting off his attempt to respond.


Peres said he spoke afterward with Erdogan who returned to Turkey early Friday to a rousing welcome.


"I called him up and said, 'Yes, I do not see the matter as personal ... and the relations can remain as they are," Peres said. "My respect for him didn't change. We had an exchange of views — and the views are views."


He explained his outburst as the result of hearing Israel repeatedly criticized for its Gaza operation, which Israel sees as the fault of Hamas for continuing to shoot rockets into Israel and causing its citizens to sleep in fear.


"They try to make the Israeli policy an ugly story," he said, still sounding frustrated. "Israel is a democracy. It is fighting one of the most dangerous, terroristic, dictatorial groups. All of a sudden to be a humanitarian is to support dictators, to support terror, to support killing innocent people."


'There's a limit to what I can take'

The president later explained to Ynet why he responded angrily during the debate: "I couldn't do anything else. I had to defend the State of Israel. I couldn’t leave the stage to lies. There's a limit to what I can take and hear."


Sources at the president's convoy said that Erdogan told Peres in their telephone conversation, "I have nothing personal against you. I have a lot of appreciation for you and we'll continue to work together. I have nothing personal against the State of Israel."


Peres replied, "It's nothing personal against you, and not against Turkey. We are old acquaintances. Turkey and Israel have a year-long tradition of cooperation, and like you, I believe we'll continue to cooperate."


According to Peres, he was forced to respond to accusations against Israel and thus used harsh language. "We've restrained ourselves again and again, but the time comes when one can no longer practice restraint in the face of terror.


"The time has come for the government to answer its residents' demands to defend them when others are trying to kill them. This is the reason for my harsh statements on the stage yesterday evening.


"As president, I am committed to protect the interests of the State of Israel, nothing less. I am committed to give the world the truth. I expect the world to understand that this is a terror organization which cannot get away with its acts. We had a lot of casualties over the years as well.


Peres will remain in Davos until Sunday, and is expected to meet Saturday with the Czech president, who is the current president of the European Union.


The president held a press conference Friday morning with 30 TV channels from across the world. Asked by one of the reporters why he looked so angry and fervent, Peres replied, "Israel must present its stance. What angered me was the fact that the speakers tried to turn Hamas into the movement of India's Gandhi. It's not a humanitarian organization. It's not an organization one should pity."


As for the Syrian issue, Peres said that "Israel is ready for peace with Syria but is not ready for a double game. We cannot advance the peace negotiations if Syria continues its ties with Iran and Hizbullah. It must decide what it needs more."


Late Thursday, Erdogan stressed he left the stage not because of a dispute with Peres but because he was not given time to respond. Erdogan also complained that Peres had 25 minutes while he was only given 12 minutes.


"I did not target at all in any way the Israeli people, President Peres, or the Jewish people," Erdogan told a news conference afterward. "I am a prime minister, a leader who has specifically expressly stated that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity."


פרסום ראשון: 01.30.09, 13:53
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