Having realized its political weakness, Hamas may recognize Israel and accept previously signed agreements between Jerusalem and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Turkey’s former foreign minister said Tuesday.
Yaşar Yakış, a founding member of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and his foreign minister between 2002 and 2003, said that Turkey had invited Hamas’s political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal to Ankara following the Islamic movement’s resounding victory in the Palestinian elections of 2006 in order to convince Hamas to forgo its armed struggle against Israel.
“Unfortunately, Mashaal didn’t take our advice,” Yakış said.
However, today Hamas has found itself squeezed by Egypt, and may agree to moderate its position in line with Quartet demands to keep together a nascent unity agreement with Fatah signed last month.
The three Quartet conditions, endorsed by Turkey, entail recognition of Israel; renouncing violence; and accepting previously signed agreements.
“Will Hamas take Turkey’s advice now? It may. Hamas has realized the limits of its own power and may listen to us more carefully,” Yakış said.
The former top diplomat was speaking at a meeting in Jerusalem hosted by the Knesset Caucus on Regional Cooperation headed by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Israeli foreign policy think tank Mitvim.
The unusual visit in Israel of a Justice and Development party official was a sign of thawing relations between Israel and Turkey, which plummeted following the death of nine Turkish activists during an Israeli commando takeover of the Mavi Marmara in May 2010; a ship launched as part of a flotilla to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
A deal to compensate the victims’ families in return for normalizing relations has recently been reached between Israel and Turkey, according to senior officials, and is currently pending the approval of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yakış expressed hope that Israel and Turkey will sign the reconciliation deal as soon as possible in order to jointly confront security challenges emanating from Syria, endangering both countries.
Turkey and Israel are entering a diplomatic phase akin to “convalescence after a protracted sickness,” Yakış said.
“We must pay close attention when conducting this process to help the healing,” he added.
“Turkey and Israel do not have a choice but to cooperate in order to fight Al-Qaeda extremism,” he said. “We must cooperate to contain this [threat] before it’s too late. Israel and Turkey are best positioned to do so.”
The former Turkish diplomat, who shared his past dream of living on a kibbutz, lamented the fact the Turkey currently does not have ambassadors in three important Middle Eastern countries: Israel, Egypt and Syria, limiting its influence.
He also said an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would achieve little, since Iran already owns the necessary scientific knowledge to rebuild its capabilities within five years after any attack.