In complex environment, Ankara finds it easy to blame Israel
While Ankara often finds it easy to point its finger at Israel for obstructing Palestinian unity, analysts point out regional and domestic Palestinian factors make the situation much more complex.
By Tulin Daloglu for SES Türkiye in Ankara -- 22/03/12
When Omer Celik, vice chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in charge of foreign affairs, wrote a series of tweets last week, it highlighted how Israel finds often itself the direct or indirect target of everything in the region.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shakes hands with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Ankara on March 16th. [Reuters]
"The 'reasoning' and 'timing' of Israel's recent operation into Gaza showed once again that it is Israel who does not wish to make peace. The unification and co-operation between Hamas and al-Fatah is in fact a development supporting negotiations and peace," he said.
He went on to argue that "The unification of the Palestinian side and them favoring the peace talks; staying distant to armed conflict is something that does not serve well Israel's desires. Israel's latest Gaza operation showed that Israel is provoking Hamas into an armed conflict and that its latest round of Gaza operations aims to distance Hamas from political engagement."
The Israel blame game comes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to help the Palestinian groups mend fences. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has visited Turkey twice this year, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has visited once.
Yet there have been no visible signs that Hamas is acting in accordance with Ankara's push to solve its disputes with the Fatah government, or that Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader, will ultimately share power with Hamas.
Osman Bahadir Dincer, a Middle East expert at USAK, an Ankara based think-tank, challenges the very idea of explaining all things in the region through a connection to Israel.
"It is not really the right thing to search for an Israeli [intervention] in the back, front, to the left, to the right, or at the center of the developments in the Arab world, especially in the past year," he argued.
Although Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal almost a year ago without making any headway since, Fadi El-Husseini, spokesman of the Palestinian Embassy in Ankara, told SES Türkiye that he has not lost hope in the creation of a unity government.
"What matters is that there is an agreement signed by two leaders and the other side [Hamas], who is trying to make excuses not to implement what was agreed on," he said, adding that there are also internal divisions within Hamas itself.
"For us, anyone [Hamas] who tries to ruin this kind of deal is giving the Israeli government what they're looking for," he said. "Because the one who is trying to ruin this reconciliation is serving the interest of the Israeli government."
Barry Rubin of the Gloria Centre, an international relations research centre in Israel, says that there is very little prospect the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza will be able to unite.
Unlike Celik, Rubin hardly considers Hamas an independent political force. 'It's now allied with Egypt and other Muslim Brotherhood groups, having officially declared itself to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood,' he said. "And all of its allies reject peace with Israel as does Hamas."
At the same time, Hamas's decision to leave its headquarters in Damascus has been a blow to the already weakened Syrian regime. "The core theme of Syrian foreign policy has been to support the Palestinian cause," explained Dincer.
He argues that both the Syrian and Iranian policies towards the uprisings in the region have erased decades of investment attempting to gain legitimacy and credibility in the Arab street.
"People in this geography have seen very openly that neither of them [Syria and Iran] have been sincere in their support to the Palestinian cause."
Turkey, on the other hand, has been sincere in its support of the Palestinian cause, he says.
"I frankly don't believe that Turkey has any calculation of trying to benefit from Hamas' distancing from Syria and Iran," he said. Yet, he warns the Ankara government that now is not the right time to allow Hamas to open an office in Turkey.