Turkey is increasing its involvement as a mediator in efforts to release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, Yediot Achronot reported today.
Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu recently stated that international elements have been working on Shalit’s behalf in the past few days. It has been cleared for publication that Netanyahu had in fact been referring to Turkey, which is considered the country with the most influence over Hamas, possibly more than Egypt.
Turkey has been working to form a deal for Shalit’s release opposite Hamas for the past year, Yediot Achronot has learned. It had maintained a low profile but recently decided to boost efforts apparently as a way to rebuild ties with Israel.
Israeli-Turkish businessman Eliko Donmez met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after last year’s flotilla and handed him a letter written by the captive soldier’s father Noam. Shalit asked Erdogan to use his influence over Hamas in order to convince the group to accept the German mediator’s proposal of releasing 1,000 prisoners in exchange for his son.
He also expressed regret over the death of Turkish citizens in the raid. Shalit noted that Hamas refuses to allow the Red Cross to visit his son and asked for a meeting with Erdogan.
Red Crescent involvement
Turkey started its involvement in the matter following the letter with Donmez acting as mediator. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu apparently discussed the matter with Hamas Politburo chief Khaled Mashaal several times.
The Turkish Red Crescent was also involved in efforts and tried to convince Hamas to meet its representatives in Gaza, but Hamas refused. The possibility of handing over a letter to Shalit from his family was also raised.
Sources familiar with the issue said that Erdogan had taken the matter upon himself personally. He was told that achieving success in the affair would improve his status in the eyes of both Israel and the Arab and Muslim world.
Erdogan has faced domestic criticism for the crisis with Israel which some claimed cost Turkey’s its prominent status in the Middle East.