ANKARA – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey could go as far as breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move he said would be a “red line” for Muslims.
Erdogan is the latest in a string of regional leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Hussein to warn of negative implications of the move.
The possibility that Trump may make the announcement has also stirred opposition from US officials who fear it could unleash violence.
Such a decision, which US officials have said has not been finalized, would violate decades of US policy not to take a stance on the fate of Jerusalem on the grounds that this was an issue Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate and decide.
If Trump made such a move, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
Diplomatic officials responded to Erdogan’s threats and warnings not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, saying, “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3000 years, and of Israel for the last 70 – whether Erdogan recognizes that or not.”
Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett was quick to respond.
“Unfortunately, Erdogan does not miss an opportunity to attack Israel. Israel must advance its goals, including the recognition of United Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel,” Bennett said in a statement. “There will always be those who criticize, but at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan’s sympathy.”
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said that Israel “does not take directives or threats from Turkey.”
Israel is a “sovereign state, and Jerusalem is its capital,” Katz said. “There is nothing more historically just or right than to recognize Jerusalem, which has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, as the capital of the State of Israel. The days of the Sultan and the Ottoman Empire are over.”
According to Channel 10 sources, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that Israeli security forces are prepared for an escalation in violence should Trump announce US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We are prepared for every possibility. The security forces know best how to act, if and when it is necessary,” Netanyahu is reported to have told the committee’s members.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem “cannot be erased,” in a statement released on Tuesday.
“Jerusalem and its holy sites are the source of the strength and vitality of our people, its center of attraction, the object of its dreams and longing and longing that have existed for thousands of years. The deep connection of the people of Israel and the State of Israel to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives and all the holy places of our people can not be erased. Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and no one can change it. Not in words or in threats,” Herzog said.
Herb Keinon contributed to this story.