JERUSALEM, Israel – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Arabs to ascend to the Temple Mount in droves to protect the al-Aksa Mosque. He also warned against Israeli attempts to Judaize Jerusalem.
At the International Forum on the al-Quds Waqf Monday, Erdogan told participants that every day under Israeli occupation is an "insult to Muslims." (Muslims refer to Jerusalem as al-Quds.)
"We, as Muslims, should be visiting al-Quds more often," he said. "Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation [sic] is an insult to us."
He didn't stop there. He likened Israel's treatment of Arabs to South Africa under apartheid. He denounced the Knesset's pending legislation aimed at lowering loudspeakers from mosques as an infringement on Muslim's religious freedom, saying he would not allow it. He also warned President Trump not to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Erdogan later told Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah that Muslims must unite to protect Israeli attempts to Judaize Jerusalem.
Israeli President Rivlin responded to Erdogan's remarks during a meeting in Jerusalem with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
"Under Israeli sovereignty, we will continue to build Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people," Rivlin said, stressing that Israel ensures freedom for all religions in its capital city.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Erdogan's "inflammatory" statements "only undermine the security of Jerusalem's residents and visitors."
The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement.
"Whoever systematically violates human rights in his country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region," the statement read. "Israel adheres strictly to full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians – and will continue to do so in spite of this baseless slander."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat invited the Turkish president to visit the city.
"It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Jerusalem for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city," Barkat said in a statement.
"Unlike during the Turkish occupation, Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty is a flourishing, open and free city that allows freedom of religion and worship for all. In recent years, record numbers of Muslims have visited the Temple Mount and held prayers, exercising their absolute freedom of religion under Israeli sovereignty.
"The connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem dates back more than 3,000 years," the statement continued. "Jerusalem is and will remain our eternal, united capital forever. In every corner of the city, we see Jewish roots – from the time of the First and Second Temples, to the Muslim period and the Ottoman conquest.
"As we celebrate 50 years of reunited Jerusalem, I invite Erdogan to visit our city and to be amazed by the reality on the ground – a reality that has changed only for the better since the Turks ruled here."
Last month, following Erdogan's razor-thin victory in a voter referendum that gave him unprecedented power, CBN Senior International Reporter Gary Lane said the Turkish president "may now view himself as the chosen successor of a revived Ottoman Empire, the sultan of a new Islamic caliphate."