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Lapid and Bennett: We'll talk to Hamas if it recognizes Israel
By GREER FAY CASHMAN,LAHAV HARKOV
27/04/2014
Finance, Economy Ministers say change in Hamas stance unlikely; Bennett calls to annex Area C as Lapid criticizes his party as obstructionist.
 
If Hamas recognizes Israel, then Israel could talk to the Palestinians, both Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday.

At the same time, if Hamas accepts the Quartet’s (UN, US, EU and Russia) terms – recognizing Israel, rejecting terror and acknowledging previous agreements – “it won’t be Hamas anymore, but today we don’t see that happening,” Lapid told Israel Radio.

“We don’t talk to Hamas because it’s a jihadist terror organization that wants to kill Jews, and as long as that’s what it is, we don’t have a reason to talk,” he stated.

Similarly, that afternoon, Bennett told the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem that the only conditions under which Israel would negotiate with Hamas would be if it accepts the agreements already reached between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and it renounces terror.

“But that’s not likely to happen,” Bennett opined.

In fact, earlier Sunday, Bennett told Israel Radio that if Hamas accepts the Quartet’s terms, it would no longer be Hamas, but “ballerinas holding peace doves in Gaza.”

Bennett described Hamas to FPA members as “a lethal terrorist organization” that has killed more than 1,000 people on the streets of Israel, and he explained that Israel cannot negotiate with an organization whose constitution calls for the obliteration of Israel.

He said that Hamas oppresses women, murders political rivals and throws them from tall buildings, denies freedom of religion and the press.

In an unusual occurrence, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On made comments similar to Bennett’s, calling for the government to talk to the new Palestinian government if it accepts the Quartet’s terms.

“Hamas is in a difficult economic and political situation,” Gal-On said. “This could be an opportunity for Israel.”

However, she added, the Israeli government is not interested in peace and should have released more Palestinian prisoners and frozen settlement construction.

Bennett said there weren’t any actual negotiations, anyway, just Palestinians blackmailing Israel and making it release more and more murderers in exchange for talks.

The Bayit Yehudi leader added in an interview with Israel Radio that since the Palestinians take “dramatic unilateral steps,” Israel can do the same.

“We managed the conflict for 66 years and we’ll continue building an excellent state even if Hamas and Fatah cooperate with each other,” Bennett stated.

There will not be peace in the foreseeable future, he asserted, and therefore it is important to improve the infrastructure, economy and quality of life of Palestinians living in Area C and to apply Israeli law to the West Bank, Bennett told the FPA. He wants to offer full Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians living there and to inject a “massive investment” into making their lives as comfortable as possible.

He made it very clear that he has no desire to govern the Palestinians. He is ready to let them have their own elections, their own flag, a system of self-government and tax collection, full freedom of movement and removal of security barriers including the separation wall – but not their own state.

Lapid took a different stance from Bennett, saying Israel must find ways to restart negotiations.

He expressed disapproval of politicians using the term “confirmed kill” to describe the end of the latest round of talks with the Palestinians.

“It is our clear interest to separate from the Palestinians,” he added.

Also Sunday, Lapid said Yesh Atid will not leave the coalition over the breakdown in negotiations.

“We need to be intelligent and look at the way things develop. Hamas and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] don’t decide whether or not Yesh Atid stays in the government,” he told Army Radio.

Lapid criticized Bayit Yehudi’s behavior during talks.

“I oppose waking up in the morning and finding that, every time negotiations move forward, someone announces [building] tenders [in the West Bank or east Jerusalem], which, by the way, are empty offers that won’t happen,” Lapid said. “They put out more and more tenders for building settlements in an attempt to stop any progress.”
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