Turkey’s Erdogan says Israel sent ‘richest Jew’ to intercede

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a Turkish newspaper that Israel sent “the richest Jewish man in the world” to create better relations between the two countries.

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Erdogan said in an interview with the daily Hurriyet published on Sept. 17 that Israel only has ties with one Muslim country and that it would be in the country’s best interest to maintain good relations with Turkey.

“They sent the richest Jewish man in the world [to us] a couple of months ago. What was the reason? He was supposed to be intercessor,” Erdogan said.

The newspaper reported that the businessman was likely cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, who has close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other Turkish media suggested that it was casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. 

Erdogan also reiterated his conditions for restoring good relations with Israel: that it apologizes for the deaths of nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara ship seeking to break the naval blockade of Gaza; it compensates the families of the victims; and it lifts its blockade of Gaza.

Erdogan also told the newspaper that in light of the recent furor in the Arab world over the anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims,” he would ask the United Nations to have Islamophobia defined as a hate crime.

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