Sarkozy: Not negotiating with Hamas hurts PA

WikiLeaks cables show Jordan believes Iran’s ‘tentacles’ can be severed if deprived of Palestinian issue.

December 2, 2010 01:53
4 minute read.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy at NATO summit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy believes the Quartet principles that have nixed international engagement with Hamas until the organization recognizes Israel, forswears terrorism and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements hurts Fatah and the Palestinian Authority more than Hamas, according to a WikiLeaks document released late on Tuesday.

The document – a cable sent to US President Barack Obama from the US Embassy in Paris to prepare him for his first meting as president with Sarkozy in March 2009 – said that while Sarkozy agreed with ideals expressed in the Quartet principles on Hamas, he thought they hurt the PA and he “would welcome any initiative to repackage the Quartet principles.”

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According to the cable, Sarkozy “allowed Foreign Minister [Bernard] Kouchner to propose that the EU take a less dogmatic approach on engaging Hamas – in a way that allows the international community to work with the next Palestinian government.”

The cable noted that Sarkozy saw “no credible alternative to Palestinian reconciliation,” meaning that at some point Hamas would probably be inside a PA government, and the world would need to engage it.

Despite Sarkozy’s position, however, the Quartet position remains intact and there is still no formal contact between the EU and Hamas.

The cable also quoted Sarkozy as having told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that US special envoy George Mitchell was “too wise.”

On Iran, the cable read, “Sarkozy is the toughest of the EU leaders.”

Another document released late on Tuesday, this one a background cable from Amman dated April 2, 2009, supported Obama’s position of linkage between finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and moving to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

“The metaphor most commonly deployed by Jordanian officials when discussing Iran is of an octopus whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment and undermine the best laid plans of the West and regional moderates,” the cable reads. “Iran’s tentacles include its allies Qatar and Syria, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, an Iraqi government sometimes seen as supplicant to Tehran, and Shia communities throughout the region.”

According to the document, while Jordan doubted US dialogue with Iran would convince it to “withdraw its tentacles,” the Jordanians believed the tentacles could be “severed” if “Iran is deprived of hotbutton issues that make it a hero to many on the Arab street, such as its championing of the Palestinian cause.”

In the Jordanian view, the cable continued, “Iran’s influence derives from the perception that Tehran is able to ‘deliver’ while moderates are not. The main failure of moderates as cited by radicals is ongoing Palestinian suffering and dispossession despite an international consensus favoring a viable, independent Palestinian state living peacefully next to Israel.”

From Jordan’s perspective, “The US would benefit from pressing Israel to proceed to final status negotiations, which would garner Arab support to deal with shared security concerns about Iran.”

Having said all that, however, the cable then quoted the then-president of the Jordanian Senate, Zeid Rifai, as telling the State Department’s David Hale in November 2008, “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter.”

According to the cable, “while Rifai judged a military strike would have ‘catastrophic impact on the region,’ he nonetheless thought preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would pay enough dividends to make it worth the risks.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in his first public reactions to the WikiLeaks documents, said one of the lessons to be learned was that it was important to tell the truth, even if unpleasant, both publicly and privately. Lieberman was alluding to huge gaps that have been revealed between what Arab leaders have been saying about Iran publicly and privately.

“You need to tell the truth and be consistent and responsible,” he said in an Israel Radio interview. “You have to tell the truth in private meetings, and you have to be responsible in private meetings, and I think that is an important lesson that was clear to me before, and even clearer today.”

Lieberman said he expected that the way diplomats interacted from now on would be considerably different, and that more and more conversations between leaders would be “off the record,” meaning that they would agree beforehand that there would be no written record.

Lieberman dismissed a report that Israel would be the next victim of WikiLeaks, and that in coming days and weeks secret documents putting Israel in a negative light would be released.

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