Hamas: Israel-Turkey Talks Could Lead to Gaza Seaport

YERUSHALAYIM -
Gaza City seen in the background near the border fence between Israel and Gaza (foreground). Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Gaza City seen in the background near the border fence between Israel and Gaza (foreground). (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Hamas expects that the current negotiations between Israel and Turkey on the normalization of relations will lead to the establishment of a port in Gaza. In remarks to the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, a top Hamas operative said that Israel was prepared to allow Turkey to manage the port, thus ensuring its security needs “while opening up Gaza to the rest of the world.”

Israel and Turkey reduced relations to a bare minimum in 2010, after Turkish activists affiliated with Hamas tried to break the IDF naval blockade and reach Gaza. Soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in the Gaza flotilla that was illegally trying to break the blockade, were attacked with weapons by those on board. To defend themselves, soldiers opened fire on their attackers, killing nine of them.

Turkey has since demanded an Israeli apology and compensation, as well as the “end of the siege of Gaza,” as Turkish officials put it. In recent months, analysts on Israel Radio said this week, Turkey has felt squeezed by the ongoing Russian support of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the continued encroachment of IS in Iraq, the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East, the crush of refugees from Syria, and the takeover of border areas by Kurdish forces – all geopolitical events that the Turks feel negatively affect them.

In response, Turkey has reached out to Israel, and both countries have been holding talks on a restoration of full diplomatic relations. It should be noted that trade between the two countries is as strong as ever, with 2015 setting a record for trade, and with both countries maintaining a balance in their imports and exports.

The demand by Turkey to “open up” Gaza has been a sticking point in the impending deal, but reports in recent weeks have highlighted Israel’s willingness to look at “creative” solutions to the dilemma, Israel Radio reported. That could include guarantees by Turkey that a Gaza port, if it is reopened, will be supervised by Turkish forces to ensure that no terror-related materials are brought into Gaza.

On Thursday, Israel Radio quoted “top IDF officials” as saying that the situation in Gaza was “becoming intolerable. This situation must be dealt with.” The report quoted a top official as saying that the idea of a port in Gaza “should be seriously weighed.” If the current situation continues, he said, “Gazans will feel that they have nothing to live for and the level of violence in the conflict with Israel will rise even higher.”