Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appealed to the 25 EU ambassadors in Israel on Thursday to stay firm in their stand against dealing with Hamas until the organization recognizes Israel, forswears terrorism and accepts previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Her comments came on the day The Daily Telegraph reported that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, on a visit to Riyadh, said that Britain wanted to have "normal relations" with Hamas and was looking for ways to unfreeze millions of pounds worth of aid to the Palestinians.
The report, which followed by 10 days a Jerusalem Post story that Straw had begun to water down the Quartet's three conditions for legitimizing Hamas, said that Straw "appeared to be interpreting these conditions with great leniency."
"Hamas now leads the government and we would like to have normal relations with them as we have had with previous governments," he said in Riyadh. "This requires movement by them as well as by us."
British Embassy spokesman Karen Kaufman said Thursday, as she said last week in the Post report, that "there has been no change in our policy" and that Britain accepted the three conditions set by the Quartet.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment on the matter, but diplomatic officials said that they had received similar assurances from London that there had been no change in policy.
Livni, according to a European official who heard her comments to the EU ambassadors, said she spoke of the need for the international community to remain united in not dealing with Hamas until it had accepted the three conditions.
According to the official, Livni stressed that Europe's role would be especially important because Hamas, believing that it had no chance of swaying US opinion on this matter, would hope to influence the Europeans.
Livni also appealed to the Europeans to sign on to US President George W. Bush's statement in April 2004 in which he said, "A solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than in Israel."
According to Israeli officials, Livni - who played a role in drafting the wording of that statement, and whose support for disengagement at the time was to a large degree dependent on the US taking that position - pushes this issue in all her talks with European diplomats and sees it as a cardinal one.
Livni told the ambassadors Israel had no intention of punishing the Palestinians and wanted to ensure humanitarian aid reached the Palestinian population. She warned, however, the Palestinians would likely try to create the appearance of a humanitarian crisis to gain international support. She also spoke of the difference between Israeli civilians killed by acts of terrorism and Palestinian civilians killed accidentally during IDF military actions.
While Israel never put civilians in its gunsights and always regretted the loss of innocent life during a military action, Palestinian terrorists aimed specifically to kill innocent civilians, she said.
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