“Under my leadership the Jewish community in Turkey is safe and under my protection. We [Turks] see them as our brothers,” Erdoğan said on Thursday to two American Jews who approached him in Rio de Janeiro, where he was attending the United Nations' Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference.
The two men had asked Erdoğan to protect Jews in Turkey during their conversation, according to the Anatolia news agency. They also asked Erdoğan what he thought about Jews and the people of Israel. Erdoğan responded by saying that Turkey has no problem with the Israeli people. “Our problem is with the aggressive attitude of the Israeli government,” the prime minister said.
He also said that Israel should treat Palestinians well. “We have to find a solution for the problems in the Middle East. Israel should treat Palestinians better,” he said.
Turkey and Israel were once close regional allies but their ties have deteriorated sharply amid Turkish criticism of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. Tensions peaked when Israeli commandoes killed eight Turks and one Turkish American on an aid ship on May 31, 2010, when the ship, part of an international flotilla, was trying to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel refused to apologize for the incident, saying its soldiers acted in self-defense, while Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military cooperation with the country in response.