World Bank report: Turkey fails to honor pledge to Gaza

In using the situation in Gaza as a political pawn in majority-Muslim Turkey to garner votes, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has failed to deliver a large portion of the aid it pledged for the reconstruction of Gaza during an international donors conference last year, a recent World Bank report has shown.
The World Bank report published on May 21 indicated that Turkey and the Gulf countries have so far delivered only part of the aid they pledged to Gaza during a donors conference held in Cairo last October.
One of the top donors at the conference, Turkey has so far delivered only 0.26 percent of the aid it pledged. Turkey had pledged $200 million but has provided only $520,000, according to the World Bank report. The report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a forum of donors to the Palestinian Authority, at a bi-annual meeting in Brussels on May 27.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlandut andcavuioilu had not attended the donors conference hosted by Egypt, but instead sent a diplomat to represent Turkey in Cairo, where Ankara pledged to donate $200 million. The Foreign Ministryand’s director general for the Middle East and North Africa, Can Dizdar, attended the conference and said in a speech there that $32 million had been collected in Turkey for Gaza, adding that this amount is being used as humanitarian aid for Palestinians, which includes fuel, electricity generators and relief materials.
An estimated 18,000 homes and vital infrastructure were destroyed in a seven-week war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas last summer.
Speaking to Todayand’s Zaman, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Antalya deputy Mehmet Gandunal criticized the government for not honoring its promise of aid to Gaza so far.
Gandunal pointed out that while Finance Minister Mehmet iimsek claims the payment for official cars used by top state leaders and bureaucrats is just and”peanutsand” amid current debates over the large amount of money paid by the state for official luxury cars, it is a disgrace to send aid to Gaza that is less than peanuts, as Simsek described. iimsek said the official luxury cars cost the state TL 3.3 billion ($1.3 million) last year and is a small part of Turkeyand’s budget.
and”This is a clear picture showing the AK Partyand’s true colors. They turn Gaza into a political pawn and exploit it, then fail to honor the pledge and spend a large amount of money on luxury cars. Itand’s tragic. How could you not honor your promise to Gaza?and” asked Gandunal.
and”Itand’s unacceptable for the government to neglect sending aid to those people who desperately need that money. You gather votes by exploiting the Gaza situation but spend your money on luxury cars. Thatand’s the AK Partyand’s policy,and” he added.
Pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP)o-chairman Selahattin Demirtai also criticized the government for not honoring its promise to Gaza. and”Turkey was going to donate $200 million. What did the government do? They have not sent this money to Gaza. This aid money was not even peanuts for them,and” Demirtai said, referring to Simsekand’s remarks on the amount of money spent on luxury cars. Speaking at an election rally in Istanbul on Sunday, Demirtai also noted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not honored their pledge of aid to Gaza.
Main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faik andOztrak also criticized the government for using the pain of the Palestinians for political gain.
and”The Palestinian issue is always part of the governmentand’s rhetoric. But when it comes down to honoring their promise of sending aid to Palestine, they cannot find the money,and” andOztrak said. He said the government is wasting peopleand’s money on luxury items such as cars. andOztrak claimed the government wasted close to TL 25 billion on luxury cars, buildings and consultancy fees between 2006 and 2014.
Deputy Prime Minister Bandulent Arinandc in a speech in April openly criticized the level of and”reckless spending,and” saying, and”Our government has presided over a number of successes, but our report card on tackling wasteful spending has been poor.and” His remarks came amidst claims of the ruling AK Partyand’s misuse of taxpayersand’ money.
h2Critical of Israel publicly, while boosting tradeh2 Turkey has been fiercely critical of Israel for launching attacks against civilians in Gaza. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made inflammatory remarks against Israel last July, saying Israel and”surpassed Hitler in barbarityand” and accused it of and”systematic genocideand” and and”state terrorism.and”
US Department of State then-spokesperson Jen Psaki had called Erdoganand’s remarks and”offensive and wrong.and” Erdogan, in return, said it was the USand’s statements that Israel is exercising its right to self-defense that are offensive and that he would not be lectured by the US on what he should say. The next day Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said Erdoganand’s comments hurt Turkeyand’s international standing and its ability to play a constructive role, although she said Turkey can play a role due to its influence on Hamas. Harf said Turkey is one of the countries that can play a role in efforts for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas but that Turkish authoritiesand’ remarks targeting Israel are not helpful.
Though the government has been harshly criticizing Israel in recent years over its repressive policies and interventions in Palestine, to the surprise of many it was revealed that bilateral trade with Israel has boomed. Turkeyand’s mutual trade volume with Israel reached over $5.6 billion in 2014 — a nearly 50 percent increase from 2009 — despite lingering diplomatic tension between the two, official figures show.
Data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) shows mutual trade volume totaled $2.6 billion in 2009. Turkish exports to Israel jumped to $2.92 billion in 2014 from $1.5 billion in 2009, while imports from Israel increased to $2.7 billion from $1.1 billion in the same period.
Diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel took a downturn in May 2010 after Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish citizens and an American of Turkish origin in international waters on the Mavi Marmara. The Mavi Marmara was leading a and”Gaza Freedom Flotillaand” carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007. The Israeli ambassador was expelled from Ankara in September 2011 after Israel refused to apologize for the killings. Israel formally apologized in 2013 for what it called and”operational mistakesand” that might have led to the deaths of the victims. Turkey and Israel have been negotiating a compensation deal, but an agreement has not yet been forthcoming.
Apart from that, Ankara failed to seek the issuance of an Interpol Red Notice for the Israeli commanders involved in the Mavi Marmara attack, despite almost a year having passed since an Istanbul court last year issued arrest warrants for four top Israeli commanders for their role in the Mavi Marmara attack.
Qatar, which made a pledge at the Cairo conference to deliver $1 billion to help Gazaand’s reconstruction after devastating Israeli attacks in the summer of 2013, has delivered only 10 percent. Saudi Arabia, which pledged $500 million, also delivered nearly 10 percent of its promised aid, paying $48.5 million.
Another Gulf donor, Kuwait, promised $200 million but has disbursed none so far.
The Cairo conference was convened to raise funds to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Gazans and help the recovery of the impoverished coastal strip run by Hamas. Countries around the world and international organizations pledged $3.5 billion to help Gaza over the period 2014-2017.
Some 22 participants have already fully delivered their original pledge to support Gaza made at the conference, according to the World Bank report. The United States delivered 84 percent of its $277 million pledge, while the EU has so far delivered 40 percent of the $348 million in aid it promised.
*Ali Aslan Kiliandc in Ankara contributed to this report.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman