Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin NetanyahuTomer Neuberg/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after Erdogan condemned Netanyahu’s affirmation of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as “blatant racism”.

“Turkey’s dictator Erdogan attacks Israel’s democracy while Turkish journalists and judges fill his prisons. What a joke!” tweeted Netanyahu.

“In Israel, no one is a second-class citizen. Israel is a democracy in which all Israelis, including our nearly 2 million Arab citizens, enjoy equal individual rights. But Israel is also the one and only Jewish state, with a Star of David on our flag, Hatikvah our national anthem, Hebrew our official language and where a Law of Return gives every Jew around the world the right to return to our ancestral homeland,” added the Prime Minister.

Earlier on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Turkish President tweeted, “Netanyahu says that Israel is ‘a nation state not of all its citizens but only of the Jewish people’. 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 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”.

On Sunday, 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.”

Erdogan regularly criticizes and attacks Israel, despite the fact that the two countries signed a comprehensive reconciliation deal in 2016, ending a six-year diplomatic standoff following a violent encounter between Israeli soldiers and Islamist radicals on a ship attempting to break through the security blockade on Gaza.

In the past, the Turkish President has accused Israel of being a “terrorist state”, and called Netanyahu a “terrorist”, after IDF forces opened fire on infiltrators during a Hamas-led confrontation on the Israel-Gaza border.

Last December, Erdogan’s spokesman demanded that Israel “end the lawless occupation of Palestinian lands,” accusing the Jewish state of “brutal oppression of Palestinian people”.

Netanyahu responded by lambasting Turkey’s policies towards its Turkish minority, adding that under Erdogan, Turkey appeared to be becoming “more dictatorial day by day”.