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Turkish Foreign Policy Toward Hamas-shaped Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Disappointment in the love story of a marriage

As in all marriages, there are some times in which either one of the sides or both sides feel extremely hurt and disappointed. However, if the relationship is based upon good intentions, sincerety and love, following each disappointment, a refreshed form of relationship appears as in the relationship between Turkey and Israel. Since you know the history of Turkish-Israeli “ups and downs-type relationship”, I will not bother you through explaining the issues caused disorder in regard to Turkish-Israeli relations, instead I will focus on the reasons of the last event which disappointed Israel profoundly : Hamas’ visit to Turkey.

First of all, I should point out the reasons of Hamas victory

1.A short glance at the reasons that brought Hamas to power

Hamas victory can be explained through the following factors :

a. Corrupt-ridden ends of Yasir Arafat adminisration
b. Political instability in Palestine
c. Unbroken promises of Yasir Arafat’s administration in regard to the settlement of Palestinian –Israeli conflict in favour of Palestinians
d. Economic instability
e. Following the September 11, within the framework of the struggle against international terror, the U.S adopted some policies in the Middle East region to give more freedom to those insulted peoples of the Middle East. And the victory of Hamas might be regarded as one of the results of this liberation policy of the U.S. in the Middle East

2. Comments on Hamas activities after the victory of January 25, 2006

a. refusal toward recognizing Israeli state
b. Insistance on having arms / not leaving arms
c. refusal toward the warnings/sanctions of the Quartet
d. some official discourses of Hamas which seem to have a profound tendency toward fundamentalism
“laicism gives nothing to a nation except for damages”
“Palestine people have lived under the rules of Islamist doctrine until now, and from now on we will be living so, nothing will change”
e. insistance on the set up of negotiations with Israeli state based upon any preconditions
f. To provide political and geographical independence of Palestine people, Hamas puts forward the idea that the borders should be withdrawn to the borders before 1967 and Israel should release the Palestine prisoners
g. A geographical passage between the Gaza border and the West Bank should be maintained

3. The probable political environment in the Middle East in the future following the Hamas victory and its short-term activities

a. To tolerate Hamas actions would be highly difficult for Israel which interpreted Arafat’s policies not much cooperative and negotiable in Israeli-Palestine peace process

b. In order to detoriate negative policies of Hamas, US would formulate either economic sanctions or de facto political containment which would be resulted in a more marginalized Hamas. So, the peace process in the Middle East would only remain as a dream

c. Iran, which had hosted Hamas ideologically and logistically for a period, would do its best to back political stand of Hamas so as to have new allies in the Middle East, in the period which Iran faces isolation due to its own false policies. Such a probability would lead the Middle East politics to become more radicalized

d. While Islam has been the basic feature which determines the political structure of Hamas, the propaganda discourse of Hamas has been “Islam is the salvation”. So, it can be argued that whenever Islam penetrates into politics so much, politics becomes radical. Under these circumtances, it seems probable that this kind of radicalization of Hamas would cause the removal of the floor for negotiation and cooperation in the Middle East

e. It seems probable that Hamas; which would not leave the arms, not negotiate with Israel, not terminate violence among Palestine people; would prepare the most suitable milieu for the European states and the US for directing the course of Middle East politics. Without hesitation, such a western intervention would upgrade the chaos and the prevailing anger toward “outsiders” (the west) among the Middle East states

f. The economic sanctions to be put by the US, EU and Israel would pave the way for Hamas to cooperate with Iran and Syria. This would mean the strategic cooperation of three negative powers in the Middle East

4. Turkish foreign policy toward Hamas-shaped Palestine-Israeli conflict / The reasons behind the acceptance of Hamas’ leader’s visit to Turkey

It can not be denied by any Turkish decision-maker that since the 1950s, from leftist to rightist, each Turkish politician has not prefered neutral way of political stand toward Palestinians and Palestine administration in regard to the position of Palestinians in the process of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This political stand has been usually in favour of Palestine. This can be interpreted as sentimental way of Turkish politics, and might be said that there has always been a kind of pro-Palestinian Turkish traditional political stand in relation with Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, in both cases, Turkey chose either to diminish its relations with Israel or suspend for a while. Taking those facts into consideration, for many, Hamas’ visit to Turkey might be regarded as twofold : firstly, this visit might be one of the signals for Israel to distance itself from Turkey for a while or secondly, this might be an anti-Israel policy of Turkey. Personally, I agree none of these. At that point it seems to me more logical to examine the periods in which Turkish decision-makers adopted anti-Israeli policies or prefered actions which resulted in the disappointment of Israelis. Even an overlook on issues would prove the fact that there has always been a stimulus-response corelation behind any Turkish negative stand toward Israel. In other words, each anti-Israeli policy stand of Turkey should be seen as a response, caused by the then international or domestic challenges that Turkey faced or by the then advantages that Turkey targetted to benefit from. I will try to explain this hypothesis of mine through 5 concrete examples.

Example 1
Response : In 1966, the Director of Turkish Military Intelligence, Sezai Orkunt told Israeli military Turkey was going to freeze the bilateral relations on the account of American support for the Greek Orthodox Church’s claims over their historical ties with İstanbul-Constantinople. Although the reasons indicated by the Turkish side had no direct relation related to Israeli policies or statements, Turkey made such a decision.

Stimulus : This decision was motivated by the perception that Turkish the military believed that it would be strategically valuable to use its relations with Israel for preparing the most proper platform to negotiate with the U.S.

Example 2
Response : In 1973, Turkey recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the sole resresentative of Palestinian people, in 1975, Turkey voted in favor of a UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism, and in 1979, Turkey allowed PLO to open an office in İstanbul.

Stimulus : This Turkish stand was motivated by the 1973 oil crisis and the perception of Turkish decision-makers that Turkey could control of oil to be used as a weapon against the states in need of it, and Turkey could use commercial opportunities that the Arab oil market would provide.

Example 3
Response : Upon the declaration of Israel that Jerusalem as its unified capital in 1980, Turkey diminished its relations with Israel in 1981.

Stimulus : This Turkish political stand was motivated by two reasons
1. The military that was governing Turkey at that time needed to establish legitimacy and support for its authority through pleasing Turkish society with which the majority is Muslim.
2. And, this was thought to be a necessary attempt not to alienate the Arab world

Example 4
Response : At the first Palestinian İntifada in 1987, Turkey upgraded its sympathy for the Palestinian cause and Turkey recognized the Palestinian state in 1988, and blocked the military agreement with Israel

Stimulus : This Turkish political stand was motivated by the reality that during the first half of the 1980s, Turkey’s trade with Arab and Muslim countries increased fivefold

Example 5
Response : As the consequence of the second İntifada in 2000, Erdogan directed harsh criticism at the Israeli government for their actions and policies toward the Palestinians and called Shoron’s government a sponsor of state terrorism

Stimulus : This Turkish political stand was motivated by the fact that Erdogan prefered to please his public, and this gave his government credibility among the local public

As for the Stimulus – Response relationship in Hamas’ visit to Turkey, 4 diffferent stimulus can be determined for such a Turkish political choice

Stimulus 1. First of all, Turkey is now experiencing other exciting foreign policy initiatives, such as its dealings with the EU and Syria

Stimulus 2. Secondly, in 2005, Turkey offered to mediate between Syria and Israel, but kindly rejected by Isreai government, having the perception that Turkey was not yet enough influential position to fulfill this role

Stimulus 3. Thirdly, Erdogan’s government is aware of the fact that in case of any U.S attach in Iran, the U.S. would not choose to cooperative with Turkey depending on her experience in 2003, so, Turkey has no intentions in regard to warming relations with the U.S. via Israel, “no need to increase relations with Israel”

Stimulus 4. Fourthly, Turkey requested to take place before the Russian Federation for having the role of mediator in Palestinian – Israeli peace/conflict process

Stimulus 5. Historically, Turkey has always been keen on being a regional power in the Middle East either through setting up economic alliances or having the role of mediator in any Middle East –related conflict

In conclusion, it can be said that despite all ups and downs in the relationship with Israel since 1950s, the relations between those states increased gradually. So, this relationship can be called as “the late cooperation of two lonely men in the Middle East region who are destined to eternal neighborhood”

* KONA, Gamze (2006). “Turkish – Israeli Relatıons – Ups and Downs”. The Paper presented in the International Symposium on ‘Ten Years to the Trade Agreement between Turkey and Israel’, organized by Davis Institute and Ministry of Foreign Affairs – State of Israel, March 06, 2006, Jerusalem – Israel.

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