If Ankara is making Hamas terrorists leave, how come its media is silent? - analysis

Turkey announced on January 18 that Israel’s president would visit without corresponding coordination or a similar announcement from the Israeli side.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021. (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021.
(photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Turkey’s ruling party, after comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, hosting Hamas terrorists for years, and vowing to “liberate” Jerusalem from Israeli control has apparently leaked claims that it would distance itself from Hamas.

The latest Ankara “reconciliation” narrative has been fed to Israeli media over the last few weeks. Israel’s Channel 12 reported the news that Turkey might reduce the Hamas presence. But there is no evidence that it has actually reduced the role of Hamas terrorists who receive red carpet treatment from Ankara.

The narrative is noticeably absent from the regime’s pro-government media. Most independent journalists in the country have either fled or are in prison, so Turkish media generally reflects the ruling AK Party line. There is no confirmation in Turkey that Hamas members will actually receive less of the red carpet than they have been receiving over the last decade.

The story that Ankara might reduce the presence of terrorists it has hosted has been floated as part of Turkey’s desire to host a presidential visit from Israel. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last clashed with an Israeli president when he stormed off stage in 2009 during a meeting with Shimon Peres in Davos. Erdogan, who claims he wants to meet Israel’s current president Isaac Herzog, compared the Jewish state to the Nazis in 2018 and at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019. Ankara has never apologized for or retracted that comparison.

TURKEY ANNOUNCED on January 18 that Israel’s president would visit without corresponding coordination or a similar announcement from the Israeli side.

 TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters in Istanbul, Nov. 5. (credit: UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS) TURKISH PRESIDENT Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters in Istanbul, Nov. 5. (credit: UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS)

This is the usual pattern. It will announce prematurely that it has reconciled or facilitated some initiative with a country that it was previously threatening, such as Egypt or the UAE. It will announce mythological defense deals and investments, usually timed to meet market concerns as its inflation rate spirals and its economy falls apart. Turkey also tends to announce “reconciliation” with Jerusalem every time Israel is working more closely with Greece, Cyprus, or other countries that its ruling party dislikes.

The ruling party also has a habit of leaking information to foreign media to launder the stories of its reconciliation. Then it will refer to the stories that eventually appear, as if the media has accurately reported the “reconciliation” even when there is no evidence that Ankara has changed policy at all.

This is how it plays the international media. It has lobbies in Washington and friends at certain media outlets that it pretends to feed “scoops” to in order to push its ruling-party narrative. But the “scoops” are never verifiable. For instance, Turkey has not expelled any Hamas members or reduced its support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood or other extremists in the region. On the contrary: Turkey routinely backs extremist groups in Syria that are accused of human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing.

“A decade has passed since the official opening of Hamas’ offices in Istanbul, and Turkey is courting Israel anew,” according to a December 30 article at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “Turkey collaborates with terror organizations on both the ideological and operational levels. Terrorists working on Turkish soil establish infrastructures and plan terror attacks against Israel.”

The regime gave Hamas members passports, according to August 2020 reports; it has enabled the group to plan terror attacks, an article at JNS said; and Hamas has carried out cyber warfare from Turkey, according to October 2020 reports.

THE IDEA that Turkey would suddenly request the Hamas members leave – who have passports and even citizenship, according to reports – would seem to lack basic verification. That is because it is easy for it to “leak” a story like this without actually doing anything. Ankara knows Israel has often said that the hosting of Hamas is a redline. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid urged Turkey to close the Hamas offices after dozens of its members were arrested by Israel in November.

Turkey also detained two Israeli tourists in November for no reason, apparently to blackmail Israel. It then leaked stories about how kidnapping Israeli tourists was also part of its reconciliation. One article even claimed that this was Ankara “opening a window” to better relations.

How exactly detaining innocent tourists is a way to have better relations was unclear. Turkey does not kidnap tourists from China, Iran or Russia, countries with whom it enjoys warm relations; it only harasses the citizens of countries it opposes, such as Israel and the US. The ruling party treats Iran with warmth and respect, while comparing Israel to the Nazis.

Just a year ago in December 2020, Turkey even tried to appoint a new envoy to Israel who was a declared anti-Israel and anti-Zionist ideologue. The envoy the country wanted to send had claimed Israel and Zionism were “culturally/religiously racist.” This is an ironic position for a Turkish envoy to take, considering that Ankara continues to deny the Armenian genocide, and modern Turkey is based on religious and cultural extremism and ethnic supremacism. Turkey even denied the existence of its Kurdish minority for decades, suppressing the Kurdish language and Kurdish human rights.

Regardless, the idea that Israel would accept an envoy who opposes Israel was a bit odd. Turkey does not appoint envoys to Iran or Russia who oppose their existence. It also apparently does not host terrorists who target Iran and Russia – and if it does, it doesn’t give them the red carpet treatment that Hamas has received.

TURKEY'S HOSTING of Hamas became blatant in recent years, including the red carpet treatment for the Hamas members in December 2019 and a lavish meeting in August 2020. It even hosted Saleh al-Arouri, who has a $5 million reward offered by the US State Department for information about his whereabouts. NATO member Turkey, a supposed US “ally,” clearly knew where Arouri was when the Turkish president hosted him.

Arouri has reportedly lived in Turkey. He was reportedly expelled in 2015 in the wake of reports he planned the kidnapping and murder of three Israelis in the West Bank. Ynet reported in 2015 that he had been asked to leave Turkey so that there could be a “normalizing” of ties with Israel. But the “normalizing” was temporary, and Turkey’s leader was soon comparing Israel to Nazis again and hosting Hamas members as if they are the heads of an important state.

It is unclear whether Israel has learned from this long experience of betrayal, terror and slander over the years from Ankara’s ruling party. Every year or every six months the “reconciliation” story begins again. Ankara never changes, but only tries to use the story to wring concessions from Jerusalem.

The Turkey-Israel relationship is like no other. There are no other examples where one country hosts terrorists that target another country but also leak stories about “reconciliation.” There is no other example in the world where one country calls another country “Nazis” and then wants positive relations with it. There is no other example in the world where one country will try to diplomatically isolate another country, as Turkey did in the summer of 2020 by threatening to cut relations with the UAE if it signed the Abraham Accords, and then want to normalize ties. There are almost no other examples where a country will post to a country an envoy who has called it “racist.” Yet the claims of reconciliation continue.

There is no evidence that Turkey’s ruling regime has changed its stance on Hamas or its bigoted views toward Israel. Leaks to media that try to embarrass Israel’s president by the early announcement of a visit, or attempts to spin narratives about Hamas, do not indicate evidence of Ankara’s change, only that it wants perceptions to change. Turkey’s media is silent on the changes and is never critical of Hamas. When the regime in Ankara wants to change its tune, evidence will come from the pro-government media critically reporting about Hamas.