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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Iranian influence over Hamas will preclude the Quartet from approving a Palestinian national unity government, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter predicted on Thursday.
He spoke just before Fatah and Hamas leaders announced in Mecca that they had struck a deal on a government that would not require Hamas to abide by previous agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. This agreement violates the Quartet's three principles for recognizing a government which include recognizing Israel, abiding by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and renouncing violence.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on the last day of a four-day North American trip, Dichter said that the Saudi-brokered Palestinian cease-fire talks in Mecca "are one of the main issues" that he discussed with his American counterparts during the less than 48 hours in Washington.
"We have found common ground between America and Israel that the creation of a unity government without accepting the three conditions of the Quartet is meaningless. We are on the right road, but if [they don't accept the conditions], we'll be stuck in the same problems," Dichter explained.
The former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head and Brookings Institute fellow said that the Quartet's plans were being derailed by none other than the long arm of Iran, which, according to Dichter, maintained a "northern front" against Israel through Hizbullah and a "southern front" through Hamas.
"Khaled Mashaal, as the leader of Hamas, is coordinating with Iran every step that is happening with Abu Mazen," Dichter explained, adding: "That's why I am not that optimistic about the possibility that after the summit we will see a decision made to accept the conditions of the Quartet."
According to Dichter, both the Democratic-controlled Congress and the Bush administration were interested in hearing about the Iranian connection with both Hamas and Hizbullah. State Department officials and Dichter discussed "Iran as a state of terror that supports Hamas and Hizbullah."
Dichter does not, however, believe that the recent exchange of fire on the Lebanese border earlier this week was part of a Hizbullah plot to re-kindle the situation in the North.
"I believe that it was a localized event that was just to clarify that IDF troops are allowed to be on every centimeter along the Israeli-Lebanese line, which on some places is on the international line, but on others is deep within Israel by several meters," Dichter explained.
But the minister, who was recently named Israel's representative to the US on issues concerning public security and the war on terror, said that the greatest achievement of his four-day trip was the agreement signed Wednesday night that Dichter said "made order out of the chaos of Israeli-American [security] relationships."
Previously, the minister explained, "every agency used to act independently opposite their American counterpart, but now, we have the whole picture concentrated under one ministry."
As part of Wednesday's agreement, signed by Dichter and the US Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Israel's Internal Security Ministry will direct the Israeli side of all US-Israel security cooperation with regard to the war on terror. The joint understanding outlined included partnership on flight security with passenger and cargo inspection and information sharing on the topic of emergency planning, response, recovery and damage control.
The two countries also agreed to share research and development progress in the field of explosives detection, to hold joint training and staff exchanges, and to share information about steps taken to neutralize, respond to and reduce terror and criminal activities in specific fields.