Turkish President Recep Erdogan
Turkish President Recep ErdoganReuters

Turkey condemned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, calling his affirmation of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people “blatant racism”.

“Netanyahu says that Israel is ‘a nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people’, tweeted Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I strongly condemn this blatant racism and discrimination. 1.6 million Arabs/Muslims live in Israel. Will the Western governments react or keep silent under pressure again?”

Kalin’s tweet Tuesday referred to a controversy in Israel over the weekend stirred by warnings from the ruling Likud party that a left-wing government could be formed after next month’s elections with the support of radical, anti-Zionist Arab factions.

Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) repeated the warning in an interview on Saturday, prompting actress and model Rotem Sela to excoriate Regev and the Likud, while declaring Israel to be a “state of all its citizens”.

“I see Miri Regev sitting and explaining to Rina Matzliah that the public needs to be careful because Gantz will form a coalition with the Arabs if he is elected,” she wrote.

“Rina is silent. I ask myself, why doesn’t Rina ask in bewilderment - And what’s the problem with the Arabs??? Master of the Universe, there are also Arab citizens in this country. Israel is a state of its citizens, and all people were born equal and Arabs, Heaven forbid, are people too, and so are Druze, and so are gays, by the way, and so are lesbians and so are…*shock*...leftists.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to Sela, saying during his weekly cabinet meeting that Israel is not a “state of all its citizens”, but the nation-state of the Jewish people, which, while protecting minority groups and providing them with full civil rights, was founded to serve as an expression of Jewish sovereignty.

I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people in the Israeli public. Israel is a Jewish, democratic state. This means is that it is the national state of the Jewish people alone. Of course it respects the individual rights of all its citizens – Jews and non-Jews alike, but it is the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

“Other peoples, other nationalities and other minorities – have national representation in other states. The national representation of the Jewish people is in the State of Israel. Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and of it alone.”

Later, actress Gal Gadot, a friend of Rotem Sela, entered the fray.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself," wrote Gadot.

“This isn’t a matter of left-wing or right-wing, Jewish versus Arab, secular or religious. It is about dialogue for peace, equality and our tolerance for each other.”

According to its declaration of independence, Israel was established explicitly as “a Jewish state”, providing special immigration rights to Jewish immigrants and for the purpose of establishing “the sovereign Jewish people… in its own land”.

Last year, the Knesset passed the Nationality Law, codifying the principles laid out in the declaration of independence into Israel’s Basic Law.

“The Land of Israel is the historical birthplace of the Jewish nation, and in it the State of Israel was founded,” the Nationality Law reads. “The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish nation, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious, and historical right to self-determination. The realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish nation.”