German Chancellor Olaf Scholz acknowledged the two countries’ very different perspectives on the Israel-Hamas war
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan traded barbs with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz over the Israel-Hamas war during a tense press conference on Friday evening, at one point suggesting Germany won’t criticize Israel because of the Holocaust.
“Since we’re in a kind of psychology of guilt here, you can’t judge it that way, but we have no debt to Israel. If that were the case, then perhaps we wouldn’t be able to talk so easily. Nor have we gone through the history of the Holocaust,” the Turkish president said via an official German translator.
Erdoğan, who paid an expectedly difficult visit to Berlin, used the joint press conference with Scholz to harshly criticize Israel for its daily airstrikes and ground operation in densely-populated Gaza, which has killed more than 11,500 Palestinians, including more than 4,500 children, according to separate counts from both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-run government’s media office in Gaza. Israel launched the operation in the Israel-Hamas war after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people.
“There is hardly any place left to call Gaza. Everything has been razed to the ground,” he said, suggesting that Israel was deliberately striking hospitals, mosques and children.
Erdoğan refrained from repeating some of his most inflammatory recent remarks, such as calling Israel a “terror state” and accusing it of embracing “fascism.” Instead, he expressed his willingness to contribute to ending the war in the Middle East, saying that it was necessary to “save the area from this difficult situation, this fire.”
Scholz also sought to de-escalate tensions, saying to the Turkish leader that “it’s no secret that we have very different perspectives on the conflict — that’s why our conversations are important. Especially in difficult moments, we need to talk to each other directly.”
Still, after Erdoğan voiced his criticism of Israel’s military intervention, the chancellor pushed back and emphasized that “Israel must be able to protect and defend itself” following the “terrible, brutal attack that Hamas carried out.”
Scholz did acknowledge that Israel must “use every opportunity to reduce the number of civilian casualties and to bear this in mind in everything it does.” He also endorsed humanitarian pauses to allow the release of hostages or the provision of humanitarian aid — while at the same time emphasizing that this “does not change the fact that there is a need to make Israel’s self-defense possible and not to call it into question.”
Erdoğan added that his country had a moral obligation to voice criticism of Israel’s actions: “If we don’t raise our voices, if we do nothing, how will we pay the price in history when one looks back?”
Asked about a potential German blockade of the sale of 40 Eurofighter jets to Turkey, Erdoğan struck a defiant tone — saying “there are many countries that manufacture fighter aircraft, not just Germany” — only to then attack the journalist who had asked Scholz about such a potential export ban.
“As representatives of the press, you should not threaten us with this,” Erdoğan said. “Ask us questions that are conscientious, that are humane, and where we can then give appropriate answers.”
Scholz did not answer whether he would ban the arms export of the Eurofighter, which has been jointly developed by Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy, to Turkey.