Turkey joins Qatari bid to broker Israel-Hamas deal

Ankara floats idea of offshore harbor for Gaza; Hamas official accuses Israel of stonewalling all long-term ceasefire proposals

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal seen during the congress of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 (AP/Kayhan Ozer)
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Palestinian Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal seen during the congress of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 (AP/Kayhan Ozer)

A new proposal for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been put forth by Qatar and Turkey, The Times of Israel has learned.

Palestinian sources said that Turkey passed along the proposal via the Qatari ambassador to the Gaza Strip, Muhammad Al-Ahmadi, who visited Israel and even met with Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

Turkish and Qatari ambassadors met with Hamas representatives in Anakara, and also in Gaza, and presented them with the framework for the plan. The details were also given to senior members of the Palestinian Authority.

The Times of Israel reported in March on the Qatari channel between Israel and Hamas. This latest bid from Turkey essentially joins Qatar’s to make a joint proposal.

According to various sources in Gaza, the basic plan, which has been dubbed “Tahdiat Ala’amar” (ceasefire for reconstruction) in the Strip, will include a five-year moratorium on hostilities between the two sides.

Turkey’s contribution to the plan is the idea of creating a floating harbor across from the Strip’s coast, where ships bringing merchandise to Gaza can drop anchor. The merchandise making its way into the Strip would go through a security check. According to the same Palestinian sources, the party responsible for the inspection would be NATO, of which Turkey is a member.

However, Israeli strongly opposes the creation of a port, even a floating one across from Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently claimed that Israel and Hamas have had direct contact with each other, something both sides will not discuss. And indeed, The Times of Israel has learned that Israeli individuals — in an unofficial capacity — have been in contact with Hamas in an attempt to find a permanent solution to the situation in Gaza.

A senior Hamas official refused to comment.

In an interview, the official said that the Turkish port idea is not a new one and has been presented in the past. He added that Al-Ahmadi, the Qatari broker, had spoken with Hamas only with regards to reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Though he admitted that several ideas have been presented by various parties for a long-term ceasefire agreement, “none of the ideas have earned a response from the Israeli side” and have thus been shelved.

Still, Hamas said that there have been exchanges recently with Israel. A Hamas official in the Strip, Ahmad Yousef, confirmed Monday that there has been contact between the two sides about a truce through European brokers.

The Times of Israel reported in March on the existence of several diplomatic channels that are trying to bring about a ceasefire, among them one led by the UN representative to the Middle East, Robert Serry.

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