It has not taken long for Hamas to find a new sugar-daddy, having found that life in Syria is becoming rather uncomfortable and they have begun to cosy up to Turkey.
Shimon Peres reversed the roles played in the 2008 Davos summit, at which time Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally assaulted Peres, virtually accusing him of mass murder of Palestinians in the wake of the Gaza war:Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally assaulted Peres, calling him hard of hearing and accusing him of killing Palestinians before storming off the stage and vowing never to return to the annual gathering.
This year, however, Peres was on the offensive against Turkey, accusing Ankara of funding terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip.
“Turkey has transferred resources to fund the infrastructure of Hamas, an organization controlled by Iran that has won astronomical donations – nearly $900 million a year. Three hundred million dollars comes from Iran, $200 million from Qatar and hundreds of millions from Turkey. The Turkish support has strengthened terrorist networks in the region,” Peres told the panel’s moderator, CNN’s Richard Quest. Peres noted that while the terrorist group has been working to fill its coffers, it is keeping a low profile due to the recent turmoil that has inflamed the region.
Hamas has flaunted its improved ties with Ankara in recent weeks, with its Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh visiting Turkey earlier this month and thanking Ankara for its support and involvement in the 2010 “freedom flotilla.”
Reports have shown that Hamas has slowly been diverting its resources and personnel from embattled Syria, where Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime Hamas supporter, has been desperately trying to quash a ten-month-long rebellion. Two weeks ago the families of three top Hamas officials in branch were evacuated from the country due the deteriorating security situation there. Iran reportedly cut funds for Hamas in August as punishment for the Sunni group’s lack of overt support for Assad’s regime – which is largely of the minority Alawite group – during the uprising.
The apparent Iranian divestment, as well as its uncertain foothold in Syria, were cited in an Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) report in September as catalysts for the emergence of a secondary Hamas command center in Turkey, as well as the shifting allegiances.
A Washington Post op-ed noted, “[Shifting to Turkish support] is a smart move for Hamas, of course, at least so long as Turkey’s star is rising and Erdogan is in charge. Far better a Sunni sponsor with growing influence than a Shiah paymaster [Iran] that is an international pariah under growing sanctions.”
Turkish President Abdullah Gul himself confirms Turkey’s growing support of Hamas although he denies giving them $300 million:
A continuation of Turkey’s cooperation with Hamas might be clarified in the near future, President Abdullah Gül said in reference to the possibility that Turkey could host a Hamas bureau.
“Turkey is one of the strongest supporters of the Palestinian case. And Hamas is an important political formation which participated and succeeded in elections,” Gül said in reply to media reports that Hamas would open an official office in Turkey in the coming weeks.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials also denied media reports suggesting that Turkey had replaced Iran as the largest donor to Hamas, pledging $300 million over the coming year. “The report does not reflect the truth,” a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, analyses the background and motives of Turkey’s and Hamas’ latest moves.
I have seen other reports suggesting that Turkey has replaced Iran as the largest donor to Hamas, pledging $300 million over the coming year.
This would be a significant development in many ways. In the context of Turkey’s relations with Iran and Syria, it would reflect the anticipated demise of the Assad regime in Damascus and the problems this causes for Hamas – which has long been headquartered there. With Assad gone and Iran’s role in Syria greatly weakened, Hamas would need a new sponsor and protector and Turkey could play that role. For Turkey, this would provide obvious advantages in its rivalry with Iran for influence in the Arab world and in its contest with Israel.
What has Turkey demanded from Hamas, recognized as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and the EU? Nothing visible. … Should Hamas launch another round of terror against Israel, the Turks could find that their new alliance is an embarrassment, complicating relations not only with Israel but with the U.S. and the EU.
This is a smart move for Hamas, of course, at least so long as Turkey’s star is rising and Erdogan is in charge.
…Turkey’s support for Hamas makes peace a far more distant prospect. Israel will not negotiate with a PLO whose leadership includes the terrorists of Hamas. And Turkey does not appear to be demanding profound changes in Hamas as the price for its support. So far, then, this move appears to have a great deal to do with Erdogan’s search for power and influence, and Hamas’ search for a substitute for Iran and Syria – and nothing to do with a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Not everyone in Turkey is happy about this new alliance as Cihan Çelik warns in a Hurriyet Daily News report:
Unfazed over its worsening ties with Israel, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government seems more defiant in its intention of having closer ties with Hamas since the Islamist-led movements in the Middle East and North Africa are gaining more ground in local politics thanks to the ongoing “wind of change” in the region.
Just five years ago, the senior officials of the AKP government were reluctant to appear with Mashaal during his official Ankara visit, which actually put the initial chill into the Turkish-Israeli relationship that reached its peak when the latter killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in a 2010 Gaza-bound flotilla raid.
However, appearing bolder day by day in its ties with Hamas, the AKP government’s gamble of using not only Hamas but the entire Palestinian cause as “a proxy way actor” in its physiological war against Israel may bear far different results than it imagined.
However, for Turkey, Qatar or Jordan – indeed, for whoever becomes the new host – it is crystal clear that it will assume a Herculean task since the longstanding negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have been jeopardized and the reunification talks between Hamas and Fatah are still struggling on.
Turkey is behaving like a playground bully who has found himself to be the new top dog. They’d better make sure they haven’t bitten off more than they can chew with their sponsorship of Hamas.