Recep Tayyip Erdogan was conducting his first interview with the Israeli press in more than 10 years on Monday when he was questioned about accusing the country’s government of “barbarism that surpasses Hitler” in 2014.
He was unapologetic for the remarks, which provoked outrage in Israel during international tension over Operation Protective Edge, the offensive against Hamas militants that left more than 2,200 Palestinians – mostly civilians – dead.
“I don't approve of what Hitler did, and neither do I approve of what Israel has done,” Mr Erdogan said, according to a translation by AFP.
“When it's a question of so many people dying, it's inappropriate to ask who was the more barbarous.”
The Times of Israel reported a slightly different translation from the remarks in Turkish, quoting Mr Erdogan saying: “There’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric.”
His comments on Israel’s Channel 2 came as Israel and Turkey attempt to improve relations marred by the killing of 10 Turks in an Israeli commando raid on a ship heading towards Gaza in 2010, prompting Ankara to expel the Israeli ambassador and freeze all defence ties.
Mr Erdogan made another Nazi comparison in the aftermath of the attack, accusing Israel of "keeping Hitler's spirit alive" and has also claimed the Jewish state is carrying out "genocide" on Palestinians.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most controversial quotes
1/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Just a week before he was elected President, he called Erdogan Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for 'The Economist', a "shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist" after she had asked an opposition leader whether "Muslim society is able to question" the authorities. "Know your place," Erdoğan said. "They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper. "And then they invite you to a TV channel owned by Doğan media group and you insult at a society of 99 per cent Muslims," he said he said according to Today's Zaman newspaper.
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images
2/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Turkish people are pictured chanting slogans during an anti-government protest on Taksim square in Istanbul, on 29 June, 2013. The protests were sparked by brutal police action against a local conservation battle to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, and soon turned into nationwide demonstrations against the government. Amid the protests - the worst in Turkey for years - Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements. We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images
3/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
During last year’s protests, activists used social media to organise and disseminate information. Several dozen tweeters were arrested following the protests, according to local media reports. Erdogan responded by calling the technology a "menace". "There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society," BBC New reported.
Vladimir Astapkovich/RIA Novosti via Getty Images
4/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Not helping to allay accusations of authoritarianism, after Turkish police detained 49 people, including well-known business people and those close to the ruling party, Erdeogan ominously told reporter that Turkey "is not a banana republic" that can be affected by unnamed "operations", according to Today's Zaman newspaper. “People who are backed by the media and certain funders cannot change this country," he said. "People backed by certain dark gangs both inside and outside Turkey cannot mess with the country's path. They cannot change conditions in Turkey. Turkey is not a country that anyone can launch an operation into. The [Turkish] nation will not allow that. The AK Party, which is governing this nation, will not allow this."
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
5/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Friends and relatives of the miners who died in an explosion at the Soma mine are pictured praying following the burial in Soma cemetery of the last body to be recovered from the mine in May 2014. At the time, the then-Prime Minister badly misjudged the Soma mining disaster, in which 301 workers died. He told the relatives of dead and dying miners that "these types of incidents are ordinary things", following allegations that the government had ignored safety concerns about the privately owned mine, the Guardian reported. In his defence, Erdogan recounted in a separate speech a list of mining disasters which occurred abroad, including a British disaster in 1862, and one in America "which has every kind of technology".
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
6/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Palestinians pictured attending Friday noon prayers in a destroyed mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. As Prime Minister, Erdogan has condemned Israel, accusing it of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers and warned that the it would "drown in the blood it sheds." Speaking to thousands of supporters during a rally in Istanbul ahead of the 10 August election, Reuters reported him as saying: "Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target." "They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won't grow up; they kill men so they can't defend their country ... They will drown in the blood they shed," he said.
7/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Amid the worst protests in Turkey for years which had spread across dozens of cities last June, Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. A demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square grew into mass protests against a heavy-handed police crackdown and what opponents called Erdogan's authoritarian policies. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements," Erdogan said before departing on a trip to North Africa. "We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images
8/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
In March 2014, Erdogan accused a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries sustained in last year's anti-government protests of being linked to terrorism. Berkin Elvan, who became a symbol of anti-government protests, had gone to pick up bread when he was hit with a teargas canister - sending him into a nine-month coma before he passed away. In a speech broadcast on state TV, Erdogan said of Berkin: "This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas. “How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
On Monday, he told Channel 2 he was "well aware" of the sensitivities associated with Hitler, blamed for the deaths of some six million Jewish people in the Holocaust.
But he said he found it "impossible to forget the hundreds, the thousands of people who died when [the Israeli military] struck Gaza".
Israel and Turkey have recently been working to improve cooperation and are holding talks on building an ambitious pipeline project to pump Israeli gas to Turkey and Europe.
Last week, Turkey appointed a foreign policy advisor as ambassador to Israel, sealing the normalisation of diplomatic relations after a six-year rupture but considerable tensions remain.
Mr Erdogan frequently speaks on Palestinian issues and human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as meeting the leader of Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist group by Israel.Reuse content