Behind the scenes: Hamas actually remains strongly opposed to Turkey-Israel normalization deal
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. (AFP/File)
Hmas strongly opposes the reconciliation deal between Israel and Turkey, despite having made a public statement of thanks for Ankara’s efforts to bring aid to the beleaguered Gaza Strip, Lebanese media reported Tuesday.
Sources close to senior figures in the Palestinian group ruling the Gaza Strip claimed that Ankara leaned on the Hamas leadership to curb its criticism until the deal with Israel was signed, Channel 2 reported, citing the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper.
"Turkey demanded that they keep calm and not react to the agreement," the sources, who were not identified in the report, said. "The Turks promised to continue deliberations about the [Gaza] humanitarian matter in the coming period."
The deal, announced Monday and signed by the foreign ministries of Israel and Turkey on Tuesday, will restore full diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara in return for Turkish commitments to tackle extremism and to remove opposition to Israel in international forums. Israel promises to allow Turkish aid into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, while still maintaining its overall blockade of the coastal enclave. The deal also stipulates that Turkey will be allowed to build a power station and desalination plant in Gaza
Israel further agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of 10 Turks killed in an IDF raid on a ship trying to break its blockade on Gaza in 2010. Turkey agreed not to take legal action against IDF soldiers involved in the incident.
In a statement published on the Hamas website Tuesday, the organization publicly thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his support and for his efforts in trying to lift the blockade on Gaza but did not comment on the rehabilitation of Turkey's ties with Israel.
"The Movement looks forward to a Turkish role that ends the Gaza siege and stops Israeli incursions," Hamas said in its English statement.
However, Hamas leaders have covertly made it known they are totally against normalization of Turkish ties with Israel, and senior Hamas officials in Iran and Lebanon have begun to speak out against the agreement, Channel 2 said.
A senior Hamas official in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, posted on his Twitter account that the agreement is a Turkish decision that didn't involve Hamas.
Khaled Qaddumi, a Hamas representative in Iran, said the deal was "completely bad" and should not be allowed to gain legitimacy by association with Hamas.
The deal will see the two countries exchange ambassadors. Although signed by Turkish and Israeli officials on Tuesday, the agreement has yet to be ratified by both countries' governments. Several Israeli ministers have already said they would oppose the deal in a security cabinet vote, scheduled for Wednesday.
Israel and Turkey downgraded already tense ties in 2010 after Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship Turkish flotilla which was trying to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Strip. The commandos were violently attacked by activists on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and nine Turkish citizens, including one with American citizenship, were killed in the ensuing melee. A tenth died of his wounds years later. Several Israeli soldiers were injured in the raid.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Ankara has also promised to help return two IDF soldiers killed in 2014 whose bodies are believed to be held by Hamas, and two Israelis thought to held captive by the group. The families of the soldiers have slammed the prime minister for not making reconciliation with Turkey dependent on Hamas returning the bodies.
A Hamas official said Monday that the group would not negotiate the release of Israeli soldiers and civilians until its preconditions are met, casting doubt on the efficacy of the Turkish promise.
An Israeli demand that Turkey stop harboring any Hamas activists was rebuffed, and the group will continue to maintain a political presence in the country.
By Stuart Winer
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