Turkey's acceptance of terrorists reveals Hamas ties

Ankara's friendliness in absorbing released Palestinian prisoners is more directed at Hamas than Israel, Israeli officials say.

October 18, 2011 03:07
3 minute read.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas)


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Turkey’s apparent willingness to take in some of the terrorists Israel will deport in the Gilad Schalit deal is a friendly act, Israeli officials said Monday.

The problem is that the friendliness is directed more toward Hamas, than toward Israel, they added.

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Haniyeh: 'Today we free prisoners, tomorrow Al-Aksa'

Israel has been careful since the cabinet approved the deal last week not to reveal where the 40 highest-risk prisoners to be exiled to other countries will be sent, but Musa Abu Marzuk, head of Hamas’s political bureau in Damascus, told the London-based pan Arab daily Al Hayat that they would go to Turkey, Qatar and Syria.

Another 165 prisoners originally from the West Bank will be deported to Gaza. Some 477 prisoners are scheduled to be freed Tuesday for Schalit, and another 550 in some two months time.

Last week, President Shimon Peres said he was “pleasantly surprised by the Turkish government’s stand” on the Schalit deal, without specifying what particularly he was referring to.

Ankara’s decision to take in the prisoners shows the good connections Turkey has with Hamas, one government official said, saying it was clear that Hamas viewed Turkey as a “trustworthy, reliable ally.”

Both Syria and Qatar have close ties with Hamas, and grouping Turkey with those two other countries says something about Turkish-Hamas relations, he said.

In September, when the Shin Bet uncovered a Hamas-terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank that was planning a suicidebombing attack in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, the Shin Bet revealed that Hamas operated in Turkey, where it recruited operatives.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, by taking in the prisoners, Turkey will again win points in the Arab world, even as it will underline a point it is trying to prove: Nothing happens in the Middle East – from Libya to Syria and including Israel – without its involvement.

The official pointed out, however, that it was in Israel’s interest for countries to be found willing to take in the released terrorists, and that Israel preferred countries that would keep an eye on them. It was not clear to what degree Turkey fit into that category.

Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who has written widely on Turkey, said the Turks were amenable to taking in the prisoners not only because this would be viewed positively among the Palestinians and in the Arab world, where Ankara is vying for a leadership role, but also because Ankara believed the deal weakens Israel.

On Friday, Ismet Barkan, a veteran Turkish journalist and a columnist for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, wrote that Israel asked for Turkish help when negotiations over Schalit were deadlocked earlier this year, and that eventually the Turkish National Intelligence Organization became involved, and met with Mossad, Egyptian Intelligence and Hamas operatives.

Barkan reported that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after the deal was reached, saying, “If you do not have any objection, we will announce it in a few hours. I wanted you to know first,” he said.

Davutoglu, according to the columnist, said: “This is a totally humanitarian matter. We thank you for being helpful in this issue. The deal is also appropriate from our point of view.”

Barkan, playing loose with facts, also wrote in this column that for Schalit’s sake, Israel “turned Gaza upside down, killed thousands of people, including women and children, and turned Gaza into an open-air prison.”

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