Dear Prime Minister and Cabinet:
I am writing on behalf of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center. Our organization represents victims of terror in civil litigation, and also works to combat incitement, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israel campaigns designed to harm Jews and delegitimize the Jewish State.
The last several months have seen reports of ongoing discussions between Israel and Turkey aimed at restoring relations between the two countries. As these discussions have progressed, Israeli officials have repeatedly emphasized that one of Israel’s basic conditions for any agreement would be the expulsion of Hamas from its headquarters in Turkey. As recently as June 3, 2016, a senior Israeli official told Israel HaYom that “Israel’s terms [for reconciliation with Turkey] have always included putting a stop to Hamas activities [in Turkey],” and that “Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman holds similar views to his predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, on Israel’s steadfast demand that Turkey expel Hamas from its headquarters in Istanbul.”
Yet amid reports this past week that Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (Çavuşoğlu) announced on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, that Turkey’s relationship with Hamas is not subject to any discussion, and that there “is no condition related to Hamas for the normalization of our relations.” Then on Friday, June 24, 2016, Israel HaYom reported that under a “compromise” between Turkey and Israel, “Turkey has agreed to ban Hamas from orchestrating terrorist attacks from Turkish soil . . . [but] Hamas will be allowed to continue its operations in Istanbul, and Turkey will maintain diplomatic ties with the terrorist organization.”
Significantly, that same day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Erdoğan) held a high-profile meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal (Meshal) in Istanbul. Israeli press reported that, “Jerusalem officials believe that Meshal was invited to Turkey to convey that the agreement with Israel is not at the expense of Ankara’s relations with Hamas.”
If these reports are true, such a compromise is shameful and totally unacceptable. We hereby demand that Israel must not agree to any reconciliation with Turkey until Turkey has shut down all Hamas operations in Turkey and expelled all Hamas leaders from its soil. Moreover, Turkey must cease facilitating the financing of terrorist groups, especially Hamas, through Turkish financial institutions. Absent these measures, reconciliation with Turkey will only further the terrorists’ goals.
Turkey has long supported Hamas both politically and financially. When Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri (al-Arouri) was released from Israeli prison in 2011 as part of the Shalit deal, al-Arouri found refuge in Turkey. After Hamas abandoned its Damascus headquarters in 2012, Turkey provided a haven to even more Hamas leaders, and began to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas annually, becoming a top sponsor of Hamas’s terrorist activity.
Indeed, it was from Turkey that al-Arouri planned and directed the Hamas operation that led to the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in Israel: 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel; 16-year-old Eyal Yifrah; and 19-year-old Gilad Shaer.
Moreover, it was in Istanbul that al-Arouri announced in front of a large crowd of Islamic scholars that included Turkish officials that Hamas had carried out the terrorist operation.
Earlier this month, Middle East Expert Jonathan Schanzer (Schanzer) of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies identified the following 10 other senior Hamas members who have found refuge in Turkey and currently operate freely in that country:
- Bakri Hanifa – a major financial operative for Hamas who moved “tens of millions of dollars” from Qatar to Hamas via Turkey;
- Maher Ubeid – a member of the Hamas Politburo and major financial operative, reportedly in charge of Hamas international relations;
- Mahmoud Attoun – Hamas terrorist convicted by Israel of the murder of 29-year-old Israeli Nissim Toledano (Toledano), now public figure in Istanbul who gives speeches and television appearances on behalf of Hamas;
- Majed Hassan Ragheb Abu Qteish – Hamas terrorist convicted by Israel of the murder of Toledano, now public Hamas personality;
- Musa Muhammad Daud Akari – Hamas terrorist convicted by Israel of the murder of Toledano, has YouTube video bragging about his role in the murder;
- Taysir Suleiman – Hamas terrorist convicted by Israel of the 1993 murder of an Israeli soldier;
- Fahed Sabri Barhan al-Shaludi – Hamas terrorist accused by Israel of belonging to the same Hamas cell as Taysir Suleiman, has appeared on Turkish television;
- Walid Zakariya Abd al-Hadi Aqel – a founding member of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades, sentenced by Israel to 21 life sentences for terrorist activities in Israel;
- Harun Mansur Ya’aqub Nasser al-Din – a member of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades who has admitted to killing Israeli soldiers, has boasted that Turkey grants former Hamas prisoners full freedom to come and go as they please;
- Ayman Muhammad Abd al-Rahim Abu Khalil – Hamas terrorist sentenced by Israel to 3 life sentences for terrorist activity in Israel, now appears to carry a Turkish passport.
Schanzer notes that these are only some of the senior Hamas members who operate openly in Turkey, and that others can easily be identified in the Arab and Turkish press, as well as through public posts on social media.
Any claim by Turkey that it will ban Hamas from orchestrating terrorist attacks from its soil is simply not credible. Turkey has made this assertion before. After Israel complained to NATO in November 2014 that a Hamas cell acted on orders from Hamas in Turkey, a Turkish official responded: “They are telling lies, as though Hamas operates in Turkey with the government’s knowledge. Turkey has a dialogue with Hamas, but will absolutely not allow any terror organization to operate on its soil.” But then, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared two months later: “For us, Hamas is not a terror organization; it has never committed any act of terror.” Turkey’s President Erdoğan has likewise asserted that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but a “resistance movement” or a “political party.”
Meaningless declarations about banning terrorist activity while openly allowing Hamas to operate in Turkey is unacceptable. Israel cannot afford to let Turkey continue to play word games at the expense of Israeli lives. Rather, Israel must demand verifiable actions by Turkey to terminate its financing of Hamas and to eliminate Hamas activity in that country.
Accordingly, as an organization that represents victims of terror and their families, including many attacks carries out by Hamas, we demand that the Government of Israel require Turkey to expel all Hamas leaders from its soil and shut down Hamas financing in Turkey before Israel approve any agreement to normalize relations with Turkey.
Please be advised that Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center will continue to follow this matter, and intends to seek all remedies available by law, including without limitation filing legal action without further notice.
Please provide prompt written confirmation that you have read and acknowledge the above.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq.
Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center