Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday in a nationally televised speech that Israel was behind the Egyptian military’s ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood, citing as “evidence” for his claim a discussion between Israeli minister of justice Tzipi Livni and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Berating Western countries for their failure to condemn the Egyptian military’s actions, Erdogan laid the blame on an Israeli plot to deny the Muslim Brotherhood power: “What is said about Egypt? ‘Democracy is not the ballot box.’ Who is behind this? Israel.”
While Erdogan did not refer to Lévy by name, identifying him only as a Jewish intellectual, an aide confirmed to the Associated Press that Lévy was the culprit Erdogan had in mind, and that he had seen the conversation in a “video available on the Internet.”
The comments by Lévy that Erdogan found so sinister took place in 2011 at Tel Aviv University prior to parliamentary elections in Egypt. In response to a question about the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood winning at the ballot box, Lévy said, “If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I will not say, ‘Democracy wants it, so let democracy progress.’ Democracy, again, is not only elections. It is values. Barack Obama after Montesquieu.”
Pressed on whether he would support the military’s preventing the Brothers taking power, he responded, ”I will urge the prevention of them coming to power by all sorts of means, yes.” (At this point in the Turkish-subtitled YouTube video of the discussion, ominous music swells in the background.)
A spokesman for Egypt’s interim president shot back at Erdogan’s statement by insinuating that the Turkish prime minister was himself operating at the behest of the West: “Western agents shouldn’t be giving lessons in patriotism to Egyptians.”