Turkey's prime minister stalked off the stage at the World Economic Forum red-faced Thursday after reproaching Israel's president over the Gaza offensive by saying "You kill people."
The packed audience, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres raised their voices and traded accusations.
Peres was passionate in his defense of Israel's 23-day offensive against Hamas militants, launched in reaction to eight years of rocket fire aimed at Israeli territory. As he spoke, Peres often turned toward Erdogan, who in his remarks had criticized the Israeli blockade of Gaza, saying it was an "open air prison, isolated from the rest of the world" and referred to the Palestinian death toll of about 1,300, more than half of those civilians. Thirteen Israelis also died.
The heated debate with Israel(Occupier of Palestine) and Turkey at the center was significant because of the key role Turkey has played as a moderator between Israel(Occupier of Palestine) and Syria. Erdogan appeared to express a sense of disappointment when he recounted how he had met with the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just days before the offensive, and believed they were close to reaching terms for a face-to-face meeting with Syrian leaders.
Erdogan was angry when a panel moderator cut off his remarks in response to an impassioned monologue by Peres defending Israel's offensive against the Hamas rulers of Gaza.
"I find it very sad that people applaud what you said," Erdogan said. "You killed people. And I think that it is very wrong."
The angry exchange followed an hour-long debate at the forum attended by world leaders in Davos. Erdogan tried to rebut Peres as the discussion was ending, asking the moderator, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, to let him speak once more."Only a minute," Ignatius replied."
Mr. Peres, you are older than me. Your voice is too loud," Erdogan told Peres, saying his emotion belied a guilty conscious.
"You kill people," Erdogan told the 85-year-old Israeli leader. "I remember the children who died on beaches. I remember two former prime ministers who said they felt very happy when they were able to enter Palestine on tanks."
When Erdogan was asked to stop, he angrily stalked off, leaving fellow panelists U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa.
"When it comes to killing, you know it too well," the Turkish leader said.
"I remember two former prime ministers in your country who said they felt very happy when they were able to enter Palestine on tanks," Erdogan added.
When the moderator tried to cut short Erdogan's remarks, saying it was past time to adjourn for dinner, he answered in frustration, "Don't interrupt me. You are not allowing me to speak."
He then said: "I will not come to Davos again."
Ultimately, Erdogan stressed he left not because of a dispute with Peres but because he was not given time to respond to the Israeli leader's remarks. Erdogan also complained that Peres had 25 minutes while he was only given 12 minutes.
"I did not target at all in any way the Israeli people, President Peres, or the Jewish people," Erdogan told a news conference afterward.
"I am a prime minister, a leader who has specifically expressly stated that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity," he said.
Peres and Erdogan raised their voices. "Mr. Ergodan said what he wanted to say and then he left. That's all. He was right." Of Israel, he said, "They don't listen."
Ergodan brushed past reporters outside the hall. His wife appeared upset. "All Peres said was a lie. It was unacceptable," she said, eyes glistening.