Following Erdoğan’s effort to reach out to Israel’s President Rivlin, the Prime Minister’s Office knowing of the Turkish leader’s position conveyed Netanyahu’s opposition to the planned conversation by objecting strenuously to any Turkish involvement in the current Temple Mount crisis.
By Itamar Eichner
President Reuven Rivlin joined efforts to calm tensions at the Temple Mount Thursday afternoon by announcing his intention to speak with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a request made by the Turkish leader.
Rivlin attacked those who “preferred to blacken his face instead of acting for the good of the country” following criticism of the planned conversation.
It would appear however that the conversation with Erdoğan will take place against the backdrop of unprecedented tension between Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following Erdoğan’s effort to reach out to Rivlin, the Prime Minister’s Office conveyed Netanyahu’s position of being strongly against the planned conversation. Rivlin, however, said it was inconceivable that Israel would reject a request by Erdoğan—the president of a country that maintains friendly relations with Israel, especially after resolving the crisis in diplomatic relations between them.
It is also worth noting however that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their opposition to Turkey being involved in any way in the current Temple Mount crisis.
Rivlin’s office issued a statement in response that the president would present Israel’s official position on the matter without hesitation if Erdoğan raised the issue of the Temple Mount disturbances.
Sources close to Rivlin said that it was not an option to reject Erdoğan’s request to speak and that such a refusal would be as serious as past diplomatic slights between the two nations. “Rivlin was not prepared to be the cause of such a crisis. If the president of a foreign nation asks to speak, you don’t say no.”
The president’s office explained that the Turkish president’s request to speak with Rivlin had been accepted Wednesday evening.
Erdoğan spoke to Rivlin ahead of planned mass protests on Friday by Muslim worshippers over security measures imposed by Israel at the walled shrine. He called on Israel to remove metal detectors from the gates of a contested Jerusalem holy site.
“As is customary in talks with leaders of countries that have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel, the conversation will occur, as stated, following Erdoğan’s request,” the source said.
“As in any diplomatic conversation, even in this conversation, President Erdoğan will have the position of the State of Israel conveyed to him in a mutually agreed and coordinated manner with all the relevant parties.”
Rivlin’s office further added, “The President of the State of Israel is making tremendous efforts, together with the leadership of all of Israel, to calm the situation in the region and to restore peace and routine security to the citizens of Israel.
“We regret that bodies that are also supposed to be partners in the same task prefer to blacken the face of the president instead of acting for the good of the country.”
The crisis surrounding the installation of metal detectors at the Temple Mount has worsened, with both Hamas and Fatah calling for “days of rage.” In light of rising tensions, the IDF has decided to active five battalions to serve as a standby force in the West Bank before Friday prayers. The final decision regarding their deployment will be made following security assessments Friday morning.
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