The Prime Minister of Turkey is still planning to visit Gaza, despite objections from the United States. Gaza is led by the terrorist Hamas group and is a refuge for a range of other smaller terror groups that attack Israel regularly. The Turkish newspaper Daily Hürriyet reported that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is sticking to the Gaza visit, although the diplomatic source was quoted by the article as noting the Turkish leader was planning to discuss it in his visit to the US in mid-May.
Turkey, as a member of the NATO alliance, receives military support from the West and benefits from American and European taxdollars. In addition, Turkey is a critical ally of the West in the Middle East. A visit from the Turkish leader to Gaza—which would provide legitimacy to a Hamas group classified by the US as a terrorist organization—would effectively be a diplomatic slap in the face.
The diplomatic source quoted by the Daily Hürriyet tried to play down the American statements opposing Erdoğan’s Gaza trip. He further hinted that plans for the visit might still be changed, saying the Gaza schedule hasn’t been changed “for now.”
A trip to Gaza by the Turkish leader could also jeopardize the reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Israel. The US has encouraged its two main Middle East allies to cooperate and work out their differences, with negotiations currently ongoing between the sides. Gaza, however, was recently named by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the likely source for a terror cell that fired rockets at Israel just last week.
While Hamas has tried to make itself appear less violent by limiting its attacks on Israel and claiming to open to peace, political leader Khaled Meshaal told a Hamas rally just last year that violence was the best way to establish a Palestinian state. Furthermore, by laying claim to virtually all the territory under Israeli control, he effectively called for the removal of the current state of Israel.
Hamas has sought more legitimacy from Europe and Middle East states, although the US has remained steadfast in rejecting the group until it renounces violence and accepts Israel’s right to exist. Aside from openly defying the Americans, a Turkish visit to Gaza would also undercut the US efforts to isolate the Gaza terror group as an obstacle to peace in the region.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 22, 2013)