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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel is hinting at stopping talks with Palestinian moderates over a "political horizon" if the European Union drops its insistence that the Palestinian Authority government recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous agreements, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
According to the protocol of a meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held in Brussels last week with EU foreign ministers obtained by the Post, Livni said, "Israel's ability to engage and make progress with moderates on the Palestinian side is closely tied to the international community's continued refusal to legitimize any PA government that fails to fully comply with the Quartet principles."
Her comments came as certain EU countries - Italy, France, Spain and Finland - are pressing for the EU to be more flexible in demanding that all contact with the PA government be cut off until it accepts the Quartet's three conditions.
Senior government officials said Livni was not threatening the EU foreign ministers, but rather explaining what the consequences of their recognition of Hamas might be without that organization's acceptance of the three conditions.
"We don't threaten Europe," one official said. "Livni just explained logically what the policy may lead to."
According to the argument Livni used in Brussels, up until now the Quartet's policy has been to try and distinguish between the moderates and extremists in the Palestinian camp. The idea behind talking with the Palestinians about a political horizon - an idea Livni first championed in December - was to let the Palestinian public know what it had to gain by opting for the moderates over the extremists.
"By refusing to grant legitimacy to a government or organization that rejects the basic principles of peace," she said in Brussels, "the EU will strengthen the moderates in Palestinian society, facilitate efforts at productive engagement between Israel and Palestinian moderates, while at the same time demonstrating that the path of extremism will not achieve results internally or be tolerated internationally."
But if it does grant legitimacy to a government that rejects the basic principles of peace, Livni implied that the EU would harm Israel's ability to engage the moderates on anything other than purely bilateral matters needed to keep the lines of communication open.
Livni argued that if, as a result of an erosion of the three benchmarks, there was no practical difference for the international community between moderate and extremist, and the world would treat all the same, there would be no reason to work on a political horizon with the moderates, since any compromise would ultimately be vetoed by the extremists.
"If the three conditions are not kept and the international community talks to the extremists, what chance is there for an agreement to emerge?" the official said. "Why should there be, because the extremists can get what they want without giving up anything."
According to the official, the Europeans consistently said the Mecca agreement was necessary to prevent bloodshed on the Palestinian side. "Stability is very important to them," he said.
But, he added, the Europeans also want to see a continuation of the diplomatic process. Livni tried to explain that it was "impossible to dance at both weddings," the official said, and it would be impossible to have stability in the PA born of a blurring of distinctions between Hamas and Fatah, and a diplomatic process with Israel.
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