Danny Ayalon
Danny AyalonYoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash 90

Danny Ayalon, former deputy foreign minister and Israeli ambassador to Washington, explained on Thursday in an interview with Arutz Sheva that Turkish President Recep Erdogan is using Israel for political purposes ahead of the elections in his country.

Turkey this week temporarily expelled the Israeli ambassador to Istanbul over the violent riots on the Israel-Gaza border, while Erdogan has continued his verbal attacks on Israel, accusing it of “tyranny” and saying that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has blood on his hands.

“Many friends have been calling me in recent days and telling me, both jokingly and seriously, that I was the first to recognize. Everyone remembers the ‘chair crisis’ with the Turkish ambassador. I summoned the ambassador at the time after a series of incidents in which the Turks, and especially Erdogan, condemned Israel,” said Ayalon, in a reference to the incident in 2010 in which he summoned the Turkish ambassador and made him sit on a low couch opposite Ayalon on a higher chair. Ayalon later apologized for the incident.

Ayalon pointed out that around that time period, Erdogan also humiliated former President Shimon Peres at a conference in Davos, turned his back to him and called him a "war criminal."

"At the time, there were also anti-Semitic videos in Turkey that portrayed IDF soldiers as Nazi soldiers who crushed the heads of Palestinian children. We wanted to create a serious picture, which is quite common in modern diplomacy known as visual diplomacy, and with which it is possible to convey messages of both threat and friendship,” he said.

"We all remember President Obama who was photographed during a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu with his feet on his desk, and we all know that it was an insult. That was also intended to send a message."

"We see a pattern of action that every time Erdogan approaches elections, and as we know there are early elections there next month, he uses Israel as a punching bag in order to raise his prestige in the Muslim world," Ayalon said, adding, “[Erdogan] is also trying to embarrass the Saudis and the Egyptians who supposedly sit quietly in light of the goings on in Gaza."

Ayalon praised the decisive Israeli response to Erdogan’s comments, which he said was proportionate in his perception. "We have to remember that the two countries have common economic interests and therefore it is important to behave smartly. We also saw that President Erdogan did not use his doomsday weapon, which is severing ties with Israel."

As for the Turkish call that Israel be investigated by the International Criminal Court, Ayalon pointed out that the Turks also have blood on their hands. "They carried out the Armenian massacre and they massacred innocent Kurds, so they are the last ones who should preach to us.”