Turks Should Think Hard About Hosting Hamas

Author: milliyet

[Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or] AKP’s relations with Hamas are emotional. Most of the Turkish public sympathizes with it as well. No doubt, the pain Israel inflicts on Palestinians under the pretext of retaliation against Hamas terror boosts this sympathy.

SummaryPrint Turks cannot ignore reports that Hamas could leave Syria and open an office in Ankara, writes Semih Idiz in an opinion piece. Were this to happen, Turkey would come under pressure from its Western allies, and could be seen as fostering divisions within Palestinian ranks, he argues.
TranslatorTimur Göksel

Nevertheless, we can’t simply ignore reports that Hamas is on the verge of leaving Syria and opening a representative office in Turkey. Israeli President Shimon Peres told CNN at Davos recently that Hamas receives US $900 million of assistance per year from Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Israeli and American media are reporting that Ankara promised $300 million in assistance to Hamas leader Ismail Hanniyeh, who was recently in Ankara. We will soon learn how accurate these reports are from the explanations the government will have to give.

If Turkey’s 2002 elections had been won by one of the traditional parties instead of the AKP, the situation would have been much different. In that case, Ankara would not have supported Hamas, because of its religious character and its use of terrorism as a political instrument. [Instead,] it would have stood behind Mahmoud Abbas. It is no secret that these days, Ankara does not have very warm relations with Abbas.

On the other hand, on Saturday a Hamas spokesperson denied the reports that Hamas was about to leave Damascus. But where there is smoke, there’s fire; and these days we get plenty of smoke coming from Syria.

The speculation that Sunni Hamas is badly caught up in a sectarian struggle and is about to leave Damascus under Qatari pressure is making the rounds. It is also said that Hamas will not move to Turkey but to Qatar, where it was first established.

If that becomes a reality, it should be interesting to watch. Qatar opposes Iran, which is a strong backer of Hamas. Qatar is also one of the regional countries that has close strategic ties with the US, which officially lists Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Of course, Hamas could move its headquarters to Qatar and open a simple office in Turkey. That is when the first complication for Turkey will emerge--not with the US or Israel, but with Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah.

Don’t forget that the Palestinians already have an embassy in Ankara. To allow Hamas to open an office would be to nurture the split in Palestinian ranks. That would be contradictory for Ankara, which has been lecturing the Palestinians constantly to unite their ranks.

And that’s not all.  If Hamas, with an office in Ankara, tomorrow decides to launch major terror operations here and there, many countries will consider Turkey as a country supporting terrorism.

In such an environment, for Prime Minister Erdogan to keep insisting that Hamas is not a terror organization but one struggling for Palestinian rights will only absolve those Europeans who say the same thing about the [Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or] PKK.

There could be even more grave consequences of a Hamas office in Ankara: Turkey could become an arena for violent operations by Hamas and Israeli agents. We are seeing [the same situation unfold] now with the Chechnians.

In short, the AKP’s affection for Hamas will not only weaken Turkey’s standing with its allies but also has the potential to threaten [Turkey’s] national security.

Led by developments in Iraq and Syria, regional dynamics are taking shape beyond Turkey’s expectations or control in a way that will make life difficult. Meanwhile, reports are spreading that Turkey has become the base for Syria’s armed Sunni opposition.  In such an unpredictable environment, we have to think hard about what Turkey stands to gain by spreading [a protective] wing over Hamas--even if it makes the Islamic segment [of the Turkish electorate] happy.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/01/what-is-the-benefit-of-hosting-h.html

Semih Idiz

Semih Idiz is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. He is a journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years. His opinion pieces can be followed in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. His articles have also been published in The Financial Times, The Times of London, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine.

Published Bağcılar, Istanbul, Turkey Established 1950
Language Turkish Frequency daily

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