Times Soft-Pedals Anti-Israel Vituperation of Turkey PM

Turkey's Prime Minister wants Israel banned from the UN over Gaza and told Israel's president "You kill people." The Times ignored those quotes, suggesting Erdogan is offering "healthy criticism."

In Thursday's "Gaza War Strained the Relationship Between Israel and Turkey," the Times soft-pedaled the anti-Israeli rant from Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at last month's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Reporters Sabrina Tavernise and Ethan Bronner quoted only some of Erdogan's more mild-mannered statements that he issued after he stalked off a stage he shared with Israel's President Shimon Peres January 29 after telling Peres: "You kill people." The paper didn't quote from Erdogan's outburst at Davos, or mention an earlier attack in which he called for Israel to be banned from the United Nations until it stopped fighting in Gaza. The Times simply called his vituperative statementsfrom the Davos stage "angry remarks."

The four daily flights to Tel Aviv are still running. The defense contract signed in December has not been scrapped. But since Israel's war in Gaza, relations with Turkey, Israel's closest Muslim ally, have become strained.

Israel's Arab allies stood behind it in the war, but Turkey, a NATO member whose mediating efforts last year brought Israel into indirect talks with Syria, protested every step of the way in a month of angry remarks capped when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stalked off the stage during a debate in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29.

After recognizing Turkey's "robust relations with Israel," the Times tried to see the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas from Erdogan's perspective, as a triumphant democratic movement.

But when it comes to Hamas, which controls Gaza, they disagree. Israel views it as a terrorist group and focuses on its doctrinal commitment to destroy the Zionist state. Mr. Erdogan sees other aspects: Hamas began as a grass-roots Islamic movement, and like his own Justice and Development party, also Islamic-inspired, was democratically elected against overwhelming odds.

"They identified with some parts of the Hamas story," said Femi Koru, a columnist for Today's Zaman, a Turkish newspaper. "They were also outcasts who were not allowed to join national politics."

Turkish officials argue that Mr. Erdogan's stance against the war was simply healthy criticism - words of warning from a close friend who sincerely believed that Israel had gone too far....While Israel said it went to war to end rocket fire by Hamas, Mr. Erdogan said he saw the war through the prism of democracy.

Unlike the Times, the Associated Pressprovided the nutty flavor of Erdogan's rant. Doesthis sound like "healthy criticism" coming from Erdogan?

"I find it very sad that people applaud what you said," Mr. Erdogan said. "You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong."

The angry exchange followed an hour-long debate at the forum attended by world leaders in Davos. Mr. Erdogan tried to rebut Mr. Peres as the discussion was ending, asking the moderator, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, to let him speak once more.

"Only a minute," Mr. Ignatius replied.

"Mr. Peres, you are older than me. Your voice is too loud," Mr. Erdogan told Mr. Peres, saying his emotion belied a guilty conscious.

"You kill people," Mr. Erdogan told the 85-year-old Israeli leader. "I remember the children who died on beaches. I remember two former prime ministers who said they felt very happy when they were able to enter Palestine on tanks."