Livni bids to maintain Hamas boycott

Jerusalem concerned over European calls for engagement with Islamist group.

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August 13, 2007 23:41
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Dialogue with terrorist organizations will "pull the rug out from under the feet of moderates" and block any chance of reaching a real agreement with the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday amid calls in Italy and Britain to stop boycotting Hamas. Livni, in a meeting with a delegation of Democratic US congressmen, said Hamas "represents an ideology that doesn't serve the national interests of the Palestinians and torpedoes any chance to achieve a two-state solution." Her comments came a day after Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said during a speech that, "Hamas exists. It's a complex structure that we should help to evolve, but this should be done with transparency." He said that dialogue should be pursued. "One must push for dialogue so that it happens, and not shut anyone out of dialogue." Meanwhile, in Britain, Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee released a report Monday calling on London to begin talking directly with Hamas, Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and continue engaging Iran and Syria because their influence could no longer be ignored. The report criticized Britain's role in the international boycott of Hamas, saying it had contributed to the collapse of the unity government in the Palestinian territories. Britain's priority should now be to persuade Hamas to renounce violence and draw it back into a national unity government with Fatah. The lawmakers urged former prime minister Tony Blair, the Quartet's new Middle East envoy, to negotiate directly with Hamas. A similar approach was recommended for dealing with Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood. Lawmakers described Hizbullah's role in Lebanon as malign and said the scope of the Brotherhood's Islamist agenda was uncertain, but added that the power and influence of the two made dealing with them unavoidable. The report said dialogue with Syria and Iran must feature in regional negotiations. It said Damascus "may slowly be changing for the better." The committee also said the "road map" for Mideast peace had become irrelevant, the US's "surge" strategy in Iraq was unlikely to succeed, and that the "War on Terror" vocabulary espoused by US officials created resentment across the Middle East. In response to the report, a spokesman at the British embassy in Tel Aviv said there was no change in London's policy that contact with Hamas must be preceded by the organization's forswearing terrorism, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous agreements with Israel. The British Foreign Office issued a statement saying that it continued to support the road map. Livni, in her meeting with the US congressmen, said that a clear distinction needed to be drawn "between the moderates and the extremists, between Hamas and the new PA government." "The success of the dialogue with the moderates necessitates parallel pressure on Hamas," she said. Livni said the Palestinian public, as well as the international community, needed to choose "between the moderates with whom there is hope, and the extremists who perpetuate the conflict." Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem admitted that there was concern about a deterioration in the international community's willingness to continue its policy regarding Hamas, and that in nearly every country in Europe there were growing voices - whether in the parliament, the foreign ministries, or the media - for engagement with Hamas. The officials said that Israel continued to try and impress upon the Europeans that recognition of Hamas now would give it a prize not only for its terrorism against Israelis, but also for blowing up the Mecca Agreement with Fatah and its takeover of Gaza. AP contributed to this report.


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