Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he consulted with the Palestinian Authority and with Hamas before moving forward with a reconciliation deal with Israel, signed last week.
Speaking at a dinner in Istanbul on Sunday, Erdogan said Turkey’s “main concern” when negotiating with Israel to end over six years of tense relations was welfare of “Gazans and we made our consultations with [Hamas political bureau chief] Khaled Mashaal, [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbbas and [Hamas leader in Gaza] Ismail Haniyeh while making the deal with Israel.”
Erdogan defended the rapprochement deal with Israel, and another with Russia, saying that Turkey needed to broaden its “radius of action” to cooperate on regional crises. Erdogan said “the country has become the target of the world’s bloodiest terrorist organizations,” in reference to last week’s multiple shooting and suicide attack at the Istanbul airport that killed over 40 people and wounded more than 200.
The deal between Turkey and Israel, announced last Monday and signed by the countries’ foreign ministries on Tuesday, restores full diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara following a deadly 2010 IDF raid on a Turkish ship sailing for Gaza set on breaking the Israeli blockade, imposed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons. During the operation on May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commando forces were violently attacked by those on board the Mavi Marmara, and opened fire resulting in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals. A tenth died of his wounds years later.
Israel agreed to pay $20 million in compensation over the incident, while Turkey agreed not to take legal action against IDF soldiers involved.
Turkey also committed to tackle terrorism and end its opposition to Israel in international forums, while Israel will allow Turkish aid into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, even as it maintains its overall blockade of the coastal enclave. The deal also stipulates that Turkey is allowed to build a power station and desalination plant in Gaza.
An initial shipment of thousands of tons of Turkish aid arrived in Israel on Sunday and was set to be transferred to Gaza.
Under the terms of the deal, Turkey also pledged to keep Hamas from carrying out activities against Israel from its territory, although Hamas would continue to be able to operate from Turkey for diplomatic purposes.
In response, an Israeli legal advocacy group filed a High Court petition against the agreement, arguing that the deal is “unreasonable” as it allows Ankara to continue hosting an office of the Hamas terrorist organization on its territory.
The Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, which specializes in fighting terror groups and their supporters in the legal arena, filed the petition against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his security cabinet.
The rapprochement agreement also faced sharp criticism from the families of Israeli soldiers whose remains are held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as the families of two Israeli citizens believed to be captive in the coastal enclave.
The parents of Sgt. Oron Shaul, killed in Israel’s 2014 war in the Strip and whose body is being held there, and family of Avraham Abera Mengistu, who disappeared into the Strip later in 2014 and who is believed to be still alive, had long petitioned for the agreement with Turkey to included a demand that their loved ones be returned to Israel. The parents of Hadar Goldin, also killed the 2014 war and whose body is also help by Hamas, have joined the protest against the deal, which critics have faulted as a capitulation to Hamas in that it does not provide for the return to Israel of the Israelis.
Israel said Turkey agreed to help in the matter.