Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Turkey and Hamas

by Elliott Abrams
January 27, 2012


Is Turkey purchasing Hamas from Iran?

One recent report says “a high-ranking Hamas official told the Al-Sharq newspaper on Thursday” that “Turkey has agreed to carry out a project to support Hamas and rebuild Gaza. According to the official, Hamas will open an official office in Turkey in the coming weeks.”  I have seen other reports suggesting that Turkey has replaced Iran as the largest donor to Hamas, pledging $300 million over the coming year.

This would be a significant development in many ways. In the context of Turkey’s relations with Iran and Syria, it would reflect the anticipated demise of the Assad regime in Damascus and the problems this causes for Hamas–which has long been headquartered there. With Assad gone and Iran’s role in Syria greatly weakened, Hamas would need a new sponsor and protector and Turkey could play that role. For Turkey, this would provide obvious advantages in its rivalry with Iran for influence in the Arab world and in its contest with Israel.

What has Turkey demanded from Hamas, recognized as a terrorist group by both the United States and the EU?  Nothing visible. For the moment Hamas is not shooting rockets from Gaza into Israel, but there is no way of knowing if Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan demanded, for instance, that Hamas permanently renounce terror or remove the anti-Semitic poison in its charter as a precondition for support. Given his own attitude toward Israel, it seems unlikely. Should Hamas launch another round of terror against Israel, the Turks could find that their new alliance is an embarrassment, complicating relations not only with Israel but with the United States and the EU.

This is a smart move for Hamas, of course, at least so long as Turkey’s star is rising and Erdogan is in charge. Far better a Sunni sponsor with growing influence than a Shia paymaster that is an international pariah under growing sanctions. One has to wonder how the Turkish role affects the internal dynamics in Hamas, where the Gaza hierarchy appears to be pushing aside the formerly dominant outsiders, led by Khaled Meshal from Damascus. Is Turkey supporting, indeed financing, this development? Will it push Hamas into elections, now scheduled for May 4?Will it urge Hamas to join the PLO (well, little urging is needed for that one) and agree to negotiations with Israel?

In my view, Turkey’s support for Hamas makes peace a far more distant prospect. Israel will not negotiate with a PLO whose leadership includes the terrorists of Hamas. And Turkey does not appear to be demanding profound changes in Hamas as the price for its support. So far, then, this move appears to have a great deal to do with Erdogan’s search for power and influence, and Hamas’s search for a substitute for Iran and Syria–and nothing to do with a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.


Post a Comment 9 Comments

  • Posted by Livingston Merchant

    It is odd and sometimes startling to discover that nations always act out of self-interest.

  • Posted by R_Perry

    Well, I think Turkey’s claims not to be run by terrorists is a little less realistic. I wonder how much Israel will note that Kornets fired at its school buses were subsidized courtesy of Obama’s favourite leader the next time Hamas continues its idiotic struggle.

    I also wonder how the world would react if England were funding ETA, or France the IRA. This is not how peaceful neighbors react.

  • Posted by Keren

    “Should Hamas launch another round of terror against Israel, the Turks could find that their new alliance is an embarrassment, complicating relations not only with Israel but with the United States and the EU.”

    1. Even if there is no terror act from Hamas against Israel isn’t it a problem that a state supports a declared terrorist organisation ? And Turkey is a NATO member…!
    2. Sure such policy does not aim at furthering peace in the Arab world only to polish Erdogan’s image in the eyes of the Moslems by asserting his Islamist agenda, at a high $ price for the presently downwards Turkish economy (last week was commemorated the 70 anniversary of the Wannsee’s Conference which decided to prioritize all spendings in order to eliminate the Jews worldwide, over supporting Germany’s population, even over winning the war… the war against this specific group of people was so much more important; we see here a government intent on choosing the success of its ideology by all means, pushing back any other need of a sound governance ready to take down its population with it… Turkey today is on a slippery lane concerning its human rights records, forcefully crushing all opposition, would you say that it is in the same way as radical as nazi Germany regarding Islamism? )
    3. And personnally -probably I am not alone in this- I find the aggressive speeches towards every opposing State, be it Israel, Cyprus, the EU, Iraq, etc. very similar to the style of such as Mahmud Ahmedinejad and Hugo Chavez, that doesn’t sound good for the stability of the region Erdogan purports to lead!

  • Posted by DB GRH

    if israel support the Kurdish movement as if Turkey knows it very well, and if turkey wants to do something in return ..
    a just instinct…..
    disturbing ……..

  • Posted by DB GRH

    Turkish report: Israel aiding Kurdish rebels
    Intelligence officials claim Israeli drones collected data that helped Kurdish rebels set up training bases in Syria-Turkey border, Today’s Zaman reports
    French newspaper Le Figaro claimed Israel used the Kurdistan region for its campaign against nuclear scientists. Again, Kurdistan has been depicted as a “second Israel”
    ..Israel for supporting Iranian Kurdish rebels like the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) and Mujahedeen Khalk (MEK).

  • Posted by DB GRH

    Finally, the tragic incident in Uludere demonstrates that the situation is very volatile in southeast Turkey. It should serve as a reminder to the government that it needs to speed up reforms, especially those relating to the Kurds. Despite the many strengths of the AKP government, the Kurdish issue remains a soft spot. If this issue remains unresolved, it might be used and manipulated by other regional powers, Israel in particular, to settle their differences with Turkey.

    06 January 2012, http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/newsDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=267797

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    Does Erdogan’s refusal to acknowledge the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians –which went on for decades starting in the late 19th century– indicate a desire for future genocide? For another genocide of the Jews, perhaps?

  • Posted by Drew

    What do you make of the reported Turkish denial published yesterday by Zaman? (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-269912-turkey-denies-aid-to-hamas-leaves-door-open-to-its-office-in-turkey.html)

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    The denial seemed to me less than categorical. For example, there is this: “There is no cash aid to Hamas, but Turkey is, of course, engaged in projects to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza,” officials said. Large amounts of aid would reduce pressure on Hamas even if it is project money rather than cash. So it seems to me we do not yet know for sure what the facts are.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required