Now Turkish PM renews plan to visit Gaza as unifier
The news report from Turkish Weekly is followed by a report from IMEMC and a longer article from NY Times.
For background, see Hamas on the move. From Shi’ite axis to Turkish-Qatari orbit
Erdogan’s Gaza Trip Fuels Fire between Hamas, Fatah
By Turkish Weekly
November 06, 2012
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently announced plans to visit the Gaza Strip in the near future, has raised the tensions between two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, which have been at odds in recent years Today`s Zaman reported.
Erdogan recently told journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Berlin that he has plans to visit Gaza soon and that authorities are having talks with officials in Gaza to arrange the trip. He even added that he had extended an invitation to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority that controls the Israel-occupied West Bank and is the main political rival to Hamas, to visit Gaza together. “He was warm to the suggestion,” Erdogan said.
However, the office of Fatah, the party headed by Abbas, reacted to Erdoğan’s words on Saturday. A spokesman for Abbas, Yasser Abid Rabbo, said that is was unacceptable that a country would be invited to its own lands.
Abbas himself also reacted to a recent visit by the emir of Qatar to the Gaza Strip, the first such visit by a head of state since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip from Fatah five years ago. “If countries want to assist Gaza, then they should do so by applying to legal authorities,” Abbas said in criticism of the visit.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife Sheikha Mozah crossed over into Gaza from Egypt late last month at the head of a large delegation, and were given a hero’s welcome by Hamas’ prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and an honor guard.
The landmark visit by the emir handed the ruling Hamas — branded terrorists by the West and isolated by an Israeli blockade — its biggest diplomatic victory since taking power. It was also a strong sign of the rising power of oil-rich Qatar and the mounting influence of Hamas’ parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since last year’s Arab Spring uprisings.
While Gaza celebrated the emir’s arrival, the rival Palestinian government of Abbas in the West Bank was less enthusiastic.
According to The New York Times, Erdogan’s plan to visit Gaza would draw Turkey away from the Palestinian government in the West Bank, as well as from Israel and the West, which cooperate with the Abbas government. The visit would also strengthen the legitimacy of Hamas, the newspaper reported.
Analysts also argue that Erdoğan’s visit would be a slap in the face of the Abbas administration, which has already lost support from the Arab world.
Khaled Meshal, the political chief of Hamas, stood out as the most applauded foreign guest at a historic congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) last September in the Turkish capital, Ankara, receiving a salute from Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Hamas and Fatah began rounding up each other’s supporters when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007. Abbas, concerned about losing the remainder of the land his party controlled in the West Bank, began cracking down on Hamas activists, institutions and funding. About 900 Hamas activists are currently jailed in the West Bank, while more than 200 Fatah supporters in Gaza have to report daily to Hamas offices and spend long hours there in an improvised form of detention, for lack of prison space.
Turkish PM To Visit Gaza
By Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies
November 03, 2012
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated that he intends to visit the Gaza Strip soon, to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Erdogan told the Today’s Zaman Turkish daily that he will be inviting Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to accompany him to the coastal region, to end internal divisions between the rival Fateh and Hamas movements.
As for Turkish-Israeli relations, Erdogan stated that lifting the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza is one of the Turkish demands to restore the Turkish-Israeli relations, and added that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sent letters through foreign diplomats in an attempt to mend the relations between the two countries.
Talking to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, Erdogan stated that the crisis in the Turkish-Israeli relations, and the Palestinian-Israeli relations, are all related to Israeli violations against the Palestinian people, and Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza.
He said that the Turkish relations with Tel Aviv cannot be mended before Israel abides by three main conditions; lifting the siege on Gaza, apologizing to Turkey and paying compensation to the families of the Turkish nationals who were killed by the Israeli army when Israeli soldiers pirated the MV Marara solidarity ship, that was heading to Gaza, In late May 2010, killing nine Turkish activists.
Erdogan will be the second senior leader to visit the Gaza Strip as, last week, the Prince of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, visited the coastal region to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to challenge Israel’s illegal siege.
Turkish Leader Says He Plans a Trip to Gaza Soon
By Jodi Rudoren, NY Times
November 02, 2012
JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Friday that he planned to visit the Gaza Strip soon, a move that would significantly enhance the legitimacy of theHamas-controlled Gaza government and antagonize the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the West.
Mr. Erdogan, who twice last year scheduled and then canceled visits to Gaza, did not offer specifics about the timing or agenda for such a visit, which he mentioned to reporters traveling with him to Ankara from Berlin, according to the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. A Foreign Ministry official later said that the prime minister was simply expressing an “intention,” and that he wanted to visit “someday.”
Mr. Erdogan’s comments came nine days after the emir of Qatar became the first head of state to set foot in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007, pledging $400 million for development projects, including housing complexes, road renovation and a prosthetics hospital. The crown prince of Bahrain was scheduled to visit the Palestinianenclave on Thursday but canceled at the last minute to avoid political repercussions, according to reports in the Arab news media.
A visit by the leader of Turkey, a huge power that is a member of NATO and a critical bridge between the West and the Islamic world, would make a much bigger diplomatic splash, paving the way for Egypt and other countries to expand direct, independent relationships with Hamas and further dividing the Palestinian leadership. Officials in the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas rival that governs in the West Bank, had warned that the Qatari mission would set a dangerous precedent.
“We are against all these visits,” President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said in an interview that was recorded before Mr. Erdogan’s comments and was broadcast on Friday night by Channel 2 News in Israel. “If they want to help Gaza, they should come through the authorities, through the legal authority.”
Both Turkey and Qatar have tried to help repair the rift between Hamas and Fatah, the dominant party in the West Bank, and some analysts suggested that Mr. Erdogan might make such reconciliation a focus if he visited. On the plane, according to Today’s Zaman, Mr. Erdogan said that he had once invited Mr. Abbas to accompany him to Gaza, and that “he was warm to the suggestion.” But Yasir Abed Rabbo, Mr. Abbas’s spokesman, balked at that notion in an interview on Friday night, saying: “Nobody can invite us to go to our own country. This is unacceptable.”
Turkey has been a strong ally and a significant donor to the Palestinian Authority, but also an important friend of Gaza. A Turkish-led flotilla’s attempt in 2010 to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza ended in an Israeli raid that killed nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara. That episode, in turn, led to the downgrading of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, which in May indicted four high-ranking Israeli officials over their roles in the raid.
The renewed attention on Gaza comes at a critical time for the Palestinian Authority. Allies of Mr. Abbas are feverishly trying to garner international support for a bid to gain “nonmember state” status in the United Nations General Assembly. The Palestinian Authority is struggling with a financial crisis that led its prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to suggest this week that his cabinet could be dissolved and reformed. And municipal elections last month revealed growing rivalries within Fatah.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Ehud Yaari, a Middle East analyst for Channel 2 News, said of Mr. Erdogan’s plan. “The P.A. has been steadily losing support in the Arab world. It is losing its cohesion. They are losing ground.”
Alon Liel, who led Israel’s diplomatic mission to Turkey in the 1980s, said a visit by Mr. Erdogan would “dramatically change the image of the regime” in Gaza, and “deepen the grievances that the Israeli public has towards Turkey.” But he predicted that Mr. Erdogan would try to “compensate” the Palestinian Authority by helping with its United Nations bid.
“Erdogan feels closer to Hamas than to Fatah because Hamas is religious,” Mr. Liel said. “By definition, he will always prefer a religious leadership to a secular leadership. But it’s important for him not to humiliate Abbas. He will try to balance it.”
Ghassan Khatib, a professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank who formerly served as a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, agreed, noting that Mr. Abbas had recently visited Turkey.
“If these countries are maintaining good official relations with the P.A. and the P.L.O. and at the same time giving support to Gaza, including going to Gaza, I don’t see that this is problematic,” Mr. Khatib said. “Giving support to Gaza can also be understood as an attempt to help this part of Palestinians that are facing especially difficult pressure.”
Tim Arango contributed reporting from Istanbul.