Turkey should cease any relationship with Hamas, official and unofficial, and close down the terrorist organizations operating inside the country if it wants to normalize ties with Jerusalem, Israel’s envoy to Athens said in an interview published in Greece this week.
Irit Ben-Abba’s comments to the Greek website Capital.gr came on the eve of Wednesday’s visit to Jerusalem by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and 10 government ministers, and amid continuous reports that Israel and Turkey are on the verge of reestablishing full diplomatic relations.
“One thing that we said many times in the past – I think this is clear to both Cyprus and Greece – is that our relations with Turkey will not be the same as they were before,” she said. “The level of intimacy and cooperation that we had with Turkey in the past, I don’t think it will be the same now.”
Following the government- to-government meeting on Wednesday, both Tsipras and Netanyahu will travel to Cyprus for a first of its kind tripartite summit with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at which the three leaders will discuss energy and security issues common to what is emerging as a triangular eastern Mediterranean alliance built around the rich natural-gas deposits discovered there over the last decade.
Tsipras’s visit comes a day after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was in Athens for meetings with his Greek counterpart.
Ya’alon said in Athens on Tuesday that the Turkish government had to decide “whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation in fighting terrorism, this is not the case so far.”
Ya’alon also said Islamic state has “enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time;” that Ankara allowed jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and back home; and that Turkey still hosts Hamas “external terrorist brokers in Istanbul.”
If all of that ends and Turkey rehabilitates its relationship with Israel, then “Turkey might be part of cooperation between Israel, Greece, Cyprus and other countries who fight terrorism and do not generate false hope,” he said.
One of the issues expected to come up in the discussion between Tsipras and Netanyahu is the status of efforts to reestablish full diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Ankara, something that one senior diplomatic official said is causing some concern in Athens.
The official said the major motivating factor behind Turkey’s current interest in a reconciliation with Israel is the eastern Mediterranean gas, and Ankara’s desire to see a gas pipeline to Europe that runs through Turkey.
The official said that in addition to Greece, Egypt – whose government, like Netanyahu’s, is equally at odds with Turkey – has also expressed concern about the reestablishment of full Israeli-Turkish ties.
Ben-Abba, in her interview, said there are a number of reasons Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated an interest in improving ties with Israel now, some six years after they nose-dived as a result of the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010 in which 10 activists on the ship that tried to break Israel’s blockade were killed after attacking Israeli commandos who boarded the ship.
“It could be for many reasons,” she said. “Maybe because of the bad relationship they have now with Russia, maybe they feel isolated. They do have plenty of internal problems as well. It was just a few days ago there was the terroristic attack in Istanbul. Besides that, they have 2.5 million illegal immigrants and refugees, the economic situation is not so good.
All these maybe have pushed Erdogan into understanding that he has to normalize relations with Israel. This is fine with us. There are, however, certain things that Israel would like to see.”
In addition to cutting off ties with Hamas, she said Israel wants, “first and foremost, the upgrading of the relations to full ambassadorial level.”
Second, she said it wants a full commitment from Turkey not to take anyone involved in the Mavi Marmara incident to court.
In addition to an apology from Israel and compensation from Israel to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims, she said the Turks also want the “lifting of the blockade in Gaza, which, of course, we will not do,” and the “gas issue.”
“So it is very important at this particular point in time that the three leaders, of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, think about what we want to do on the energy sector,” she said.