haniyeh gerry adams 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Northern Ireland politician Gerry Adams, who met Wednesday with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, dismissed Israeli criticism that these meetings give Hamas legitimacy, telling The Jerusalem Post in an interview Friday that "the voters give Hamas their legitimacy."
Israeli government officials refused to meet Adams because of his willingness to meet with Hamas, and the Northern Irish republican leader was even given a bit of a cold shoulder in the Palestinian Authority, meeting in Ramallah on Friday not with PA President Mahmoud Abbas or PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad, but only with the deputy foreign minister.
"If I may say so, when people are challenged to go to the ballot box, and they win, you cannot say to the electorate, hard luck, we don't like who you voted for," Adams said by phone as he was traveling from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
Reminded that the Nazis took power through the ballot box, Adams, head of the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party, responded, "Let's not get into the Nazis. Let's talk about Sinn Fein, a party that is generally accepted as having played a positive role in the [Northern Ireland] peace process.
"I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington. I deeply appreciate the huge suffering the Jewish people have endured. I have huge affinity with what people came through in the Holocaust and the concentration camps, and anti-Semitism and all of that. And I stand firmly and absolutely against all of that.
"But there was a time when there was no dialogue in Ireland, and there was conflict," he said. "Once we opened up the process to allow dialogue, and made it inclusive, we started a very difficult process that challenged everyone. It challenged Sinn Fein, it challenged the British government, challenged the unionists."
Adams said there was a "certainty" about war "that people can be comfortable in, because you don't have to take chances."
But, he said, "you can take chances and ensure that no person has to be killed, or live in fear or be imprisoned and subjected to all the people of Israel and the people of Palestine have been subjected to. We took the chance in Ireland. It wasn't easy, but the rewards more than vindicate and validate the risks that were taken."
Asked if he thought the two conflicts - Northern Ireland and Israel - were comparable, he said they were not, but there were parallels.
"I do think there are broad principles like political will that can be applied to the conflict resolution process," he said.
When reminded that the IRA never set out to destroy Britain, as Hamas has declared it wanted to do to Israel, Adams said that the Irish example has shown that "once people have a peaceful way to make progress, sensible thinking people will not use armed actions. So it's not a matter of who wants to destroy what, people should be able to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue."
Adams, who left the region early Saturday morning, said he believed Hamas when they said they "are not al-Qaida, they are not the Taliban, they want peace with their Israeli neighbors."
Adams, who was in the region for the second time in three years, said he was not here to curry favor, "I'm here to bear witness for those who want to listen that there is a way to sort this out, and that the leaders have a responsibility to do that."
Adams said that Hamas "told me they wanted a peace settlement, that they are prepared to accept a two-state solution."
Asked if he believed them, he said, "It's not whether I believe them. The fact is they are duly elected representatives of their people, let's test them, if need be. Let's enter into talks, let's have proper talks, let's have inclusive talks. Let's develop a project that ends aggression of all kinds. My position, and the Sinn Fein position, is that all aggressive actions should cease. There should be no armed actions by any of the Palestinian factions, or by the Israeli state."
Adams, who in addition to Hamas officials, also met during his four-day visit with Kadima MK Shai Hermesh at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as with representatives from some Israeli NGOs such as people connected with Jerusalem's Van Leer Institute and Rabbis for Human Rights, said that neither Israelis nor the Palestinians believe the other side was genuine about wanting peace. "I think both peoples are serious about peace," he said. "Who wouldn't be? Who would want to live in conditions of war and perpetual threat and conflict and all the negativity and degradation and loss of life and destruction that goes with it?"
Adams, who spent two nights in Gaza after visiting for a number of hours in Sderot and Kfar Aza, said he thought the Israel military operation in Gaza earlier in the year "was wrong." "I watched it at home in Ireland," he said. "I think the siege should cease, it is just a dreadful situation. The people of Israel are a very proud and decent people and this should not be done in their name, it something that humanity calls out must be stopped.
"The people of Palestine and people of Israel are destined to live together," he said. "It is an accident of birth where you are born. And people should live together respecting each other's rights.
Asked how he would recommend Israel respond to constant rocket fire on a large swath of its territory, he said, "I'm against the rockets, and I made that clear, that's why I went to the places I went to. And I also made clear wherever I spoke that I'm against that. But the solution lies in recognizing that the people of Palestinian have the right to a state that is viable and sustainable, and recognizing that the security of Israel is interlocked into the rights of dignity and security of the people of the Palestinians territories."