Having realized that it is no longer able to remain in Damascus, Hamas is looking to move to a new location - thus their probing of friendly capitals. It was obvious that they would reach out to Ankara, and the [Turkish] government did indeed consider their proposal. However, after a cabinet meeting on Monday [January 30, 2012] a government spokesman offered an unconvincing statement. [The spokesman] said that no decision had been made for the time being on whether or not [Hamas Chairperson] Khaled Meshaal could open an office in Turkey. The government appeared somewhat hesitant; at this point it has not made any firm statements but is leaving the door ajar for future changes in its status. I doubt that the matter is closed.
Hamas is courting Middle Eastern capitals in search of a potential new headquarters, should it be forced to leave Damascus. Ankara has considered Hamas’ request, and Mehmet Ali Birand here lays out the pros and cons, concluding that allowing Hamas to set up shop in Turkey would leave the country “up to its neck” in an intractable conflict.
What will Hamas Bring to Turkey or Take Away?
Mehmet Ali Birand
February 1, 2012
February 1 2012
Hamas is a controversial organization [for Turkey to host]. It is seen as a savior by the Palestinians in Gaza, while those in the West Bank [identify it through its antagonistic relations with Fatah, which is the leading party there]. Many countries that support Israel see Hamas as a “terrorist organization” that murders civilians. Turkey on the other hand views Hamas as a legal political party that was victorious in the  Gaza elections and that represents the Palestinians. Let us now [take a look - from a Turkish point of view - at the pros and cons] of Hamas opening an office in Istanbul:
- In the past Turkey was a country that could engage with all parties involved in the Palestinian question. We lost much of that status during the flotilla affair. With Hamas based in Ankara, we would [lose any objectivity we have] in the conflict and therefore lose our ability to play an effective role in its resolution.
- The US will view Turkey with increased suspicion. Relations with Israel will become irreparable. There will no longer be much of a debate over whether or not the AKP [Justice and Development Party] has changed Turkey’s foreign policy axis.
- Turkey will not be able to control Hamas’ activities in Gaza and its operations in the occupied territories. Capital cities throughout the world will be quick to blame Turkey for every rocket fired by Hamas.
- Turkey’s international profile will improve, especially with Islamic countries.
- We could be given a slightly increased role in mediating the Palestinian conflict.
- Regarding regional issues, more attention will be paid to what Ankara says.
This balance sheet illustrates that the risks Ankara faces appear to outweigh the potential benefits [of such a partnership]. We will lose more than we will gain. Should Fatah and Hamas successfully complete their reconciliation, we will lose even more, as Fatah will have the upper hand. In the meanwhile we should not forget that Egypt and Jordan - which currently carry the largest responsibilities regarding the Palestine question - will alter their stances towards Turkey. These countries will be upset by Turkey's entry into what they see as their backyards.
The Middle East is an extremely dangerous swamp, and getting involved in Palestinian affairs will lead us into an intractable conflict with no clear solution. I don’t see us gaining anything worthwhile by wading into this swamp up to our necks.