The Turkish president accused Israel of violating Muslims' religious rights by attempting to ban call for prayer
Israel lashed out at Recep Tayyip Erdogan, describing him as a "serial human rights violator," after the Turkish president on Monday accused the Israeli government of apartheid practices and violating Muslims' religious freedom.
"Whoever systematically violates human rights in their own country should not preach morality to the only true democracy in the region," said Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
"Israel consistently protects total freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians and will continue to do so despite the baseless smears launched against it," he said in a statement.
Earlier on Monday, Erdogan vowed to fight a draft bill being advanced in Israel that would ban the use of speakers mounted on minarets to summon Muslims for prayer.
The bill, which was approved by ministers in February but has yet to be adopted by parliament, would apply to mosques in Israel as well as occupied East Jerusalem, but not to Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.
"God willing, we will never allow the silencing of azan (call to prayers) in the skies of Jerusalem," Erdogan said at the International Jerusalem Foundations Forum in Istanbul.
Erdogan accused Israel of trying to keep Jerusalem "without the Muslims".
"What's the difference of Israel's current practices from the racist and discriminatory policies implemented towards the blacks in America in the past, and in South Africa more recently?" he asked.
The Turkish president also spoke out against the possibility of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, warning that even "relocating a stone" in the Holy City could have serious implications.
"The debates over the possibility of US moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong and should certainly drop from the agenda," he said.
US President Donald Trump had promised during his campaign to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, which would amount to recognising the entire city as Israel's capital.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
The accusations traded between Israel and Turkey on Monday could derail the two countries' diplomatic relations.
Erdogan, an outspoken critic of Israel's military occupation against Palestinians, normalised relations with Israel in June last year after bilateral ties deteriorated over the 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship that killed eight Turkish activists and an American citizen of Turkish descent.
In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologised to Erdogan over the flotilla incident, which had been denounced as a major violation by Israel.