hizbullah rally 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
When Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met in Brussels with her European counterparts last week, she was told that Israel's refusal to meet with Salaam Fayad if he becomes finance minister in a future Palestinian Authority government was simply "ridiculous."
This was a man, Livni was told, who the international community held in high esteem, and who Israel has worked closely with in the past. To stop dealing with him simply because his prime minister was Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh made no sense.
The same argument has been used in recent days by Palestinian officials, saying that it was senseless for Israel to stop dealing with Muhammad Dahlan, somebody Israeli officials have dealt with and even developed a chemistry with over the years, because if he takes a ministerial position he will serve in a Hamas-Fatah government.
But Israel's position is that the nature of the government makes all the difference in the world. By boycotting people Israel has sat down with for years - once they become part of a Hamas government - Jerusalem is trying to prevent the Lebanonization of the PA.
In this context, the Lebanonization of the PA means that Israel wants to prevent the world from acting toward the PA as it did following the formation of Fuad Saniora's government in Beirut in 2005 that included Hizbullah ministers.
The world's position was that it would not deal with Hizbullah or Hizbullah-endorsed ministers in Saniora's government, but would meet with all the rest.
Israel is fearful that such cherry-picking in a Hamas-Fatah government would lead to the eventual recognition of the government and its being granted international legitimacy.
Which is why at the last Olmert-Abbas meeting in February, the one also attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Olmert told Dahlan at a joint lunch that he should not become a minister in a PA unity government, because if he did, these types of meetings would cease.
Olmert said this in a joking manner, but was dead serious. Israel wants to make sure the road to international legitimization of Hamas doesn't lead through contacts Israel has with some of its old favorite Fatah ministers.