A bizarre incident at Davos yesterday, as reported by Katrin Bennhold for NYT:
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked off the stage after an angry exchange with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, during a panel discussion on Gaza at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, vowing never to return to the annual gathering.
Mr. Erdogan apparently became incensed after the moderator curtailed his response to remarks by Mr. Peres on the recent Israeli military campaign. The panel was running late, and Mr. Peres was to have had the last word, participants said.
Panel discussions at Davos are restricted to one hour, but Mr. Erdogan insisted on responding to Mr. Peres. Red-faced, and with one hand grasping the arm of the moderator, the columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Mr. Erdogan turned to the Israeli president. “Mr. Peres, you are older than me,” he said. “Your voice comes out in a very high tone. And the high tone of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience. My voice, however, will not come out in the same tone.” Resisting efforts by Mr. Ignatius to end the session, Mr. Erdogan continued, saying to Mr. Peres, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”
By all accounts, the discussion of the Gaza offensive was lively, with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations and Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary general, joining Mr. Peres and Mr. Erdogan. Participants said Mr. Peres was mostly alone in defending Israel’s role in Gaza, and for that reason he was given the final 25 minutes to speak. Earlier, Mr. Erdogan spoke for 12 minutes about the Palestinians’ sufferings.
As BBC reports, it played extremely well at home where he “received a hero’s welcome.”
Thousands of people turned out in the city to greet Mr Erdogan’s plane.
He told them Mr Peres’ language and tone had been unacceptable, so he acted to stand up for Turkish honour. “I only know that I have to protect the honour of Turkey and Turkish people,” said Mr Erdogan. “I am not a chief of a tribe. I am the prime minister of Turkey. I have to do what I have to do.”
Huge crowds were waiting at Istanbul airport in the early hours of the morning, with many people waving Turkish and Palestinian flags. Correspondents said the crowds were shouting “Turkey is with you,” and that some were holding signs greeting Mr Erdogan as “a new world leader”. “In Davos, all the world witnessed what has not been happening for many years,” said Istanbul resident Mustafa Mastar. “This showed the power of Turks. It showed that Turks are standing on their feet in Europe, in the world.” “Tonight I was really proud. I feel really happy,” said Mustafa Sahin, another person in the crowd.
On the other hand, while Erdogan is on the same side as most EU members on this issue, one can’t imagine his outburst was helpful to his desire to integrate his country into the EU, as it only bolsters the view that Turkey’s political leadership is less than mature.