Turkey planning $5 billion for Gaza seaport

Amid rapprochement talks with Israel, Turkish team meets with Hamas officials to plan seaport - even though Israel adamantly opposes.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 2/5/2016, 10:13 AM

Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
Reuters

In the midst of ongoing normalization talks with Israel, Turkey is planning to invest $5 billion in reconstructing the Hamas stronghold of Gaza including a seaport - which Israel has fiercely opposed due to the blatant threat of weapons smuggling.

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News on Friday reported that a team of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) announced the expensive rebuilding plan, which is being prepared by the Center for Multilateral Trade Studies at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).

The plans to reconstruct the Hamas-held region came after meetings with Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas officials, as well as Israeli officials.

“As the Turkish business world, we can fulfill this work,” said TOBB chairman Rifat Hisarciklioglu, who led the group. TEPAV claims that by 2020, Gaza will be "unlivable" with no drinking water left.

Indicating the subversive nature of the plan, TEPAV Executive Director Guven Sak said, "we made a strategic plan. A Gaza port will be one of the most important projects in this plan."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected the idea of a port or lifting the maritime blockade on Gaza, which is meant to block the influx of weapons and which is fully legal according to international law, contrary to the claims of Israel's opponents. Surprisingly, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) in December called to build a seaport in Gaza.

The matter of the naval blockade has been a key sticking point in the reconciliation talks with Turkey, which continues to firmly support the Hamas terrorist organization. Turkey also continues to host Hamas terrorists, including those planning attacks in Israel.

With Israeli permission

Regarding the Turkish plan, TEPAV's Sak said, "Turkish contractors will be an important part of this project," while Hisarciklioglu said, "our contractors are materializing world-class works. They rank second in the world."

The group met with Israeli officials unnamed in the report, and also met with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as well as several PA ministers and officials, in addition to Hamas officials and the Gaza Chamber of Commerce.

Israel gave the Turkish team permission to visit Gaza and plan the project according to the report, in an apparent sign of the growing rapprochement between the two states.

"It is not possible to go to Gaza without the permission of Israel," said Hisarciklioglu. "But we did this. This is an indicator that the tensions between Turkey and Israel are easing.” 

Israel's normalization talks with Turkey have caused outrage in Egypt, where officials have urged Israel not to normalize ties.

Turkish defense sources revealed in December that Turkey is primarily interested in rapprochement so as to buy Israeli military hardware, with Ankara interested in buying more advanced Israeli drones as well as reconnaissance and surveillance systems for its fighter jets.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in December also said that Turkey is only interested in the normalization talks so as to "benefit...Palestine and Gaza."

Senior Israeli security sources for their part said they doubt Turkey is serious about rapprochement, noting on the crisis in ties with Russia - a key gas supplier for Turkey - that apparently prompted the desire for natural gas trade with Israel as Ankara hurts financially.

Bilateral ties disintegrated in the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, when IDF soldiers were forced to board the Turkish ship that had ignored repeated warnings to stop its attempt to breach the maritime blockade on Gaza.

The soldiers were brutally attacked by IHH Islamist extremists on board wielding knives and metal bars, and had no choice but to open fire, killing ten of the IHH members on board. After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid, despite the flotilla's claims that it was on a "humanitarian" mission.