EU to revisit conditions for Hamas talks

"It's part of coming to grips with the reality that.. things have gone nowhere."

haniyeh speaks 298 88ap (photo credit: AP)
haniyeh speaks 298 88ap
(photo credit: AP)
With realignment apparently dead and any diplomatic process with the Palestinians stagnant, some voices inside the EU are calling for the three preconditions to talks with Hamas to be "revisited," The Jerusalem Post has learned. These voices, according to European officials, are not advocating dropping the three conditions - ending terrorism, accepting previous agreements and recognizing Israel - but rather staggering them so an opening is created for talks with the Palestinian Authority.
  • EU begins paying aid to Palestinians "No one is questioning the need for the three conditions," a senior European diplomatic source said. "But maybe if you cannot get wholesale adherence by Hamas to these three conditions, why not start with one, and see where that gets us." He said that the one condition that should be insisted upon is an immediate stop to terrorism. "That is more important than the rest," he said. "After that, we could talk about getting them to accept the Oslo framework." This, he said, could then lead to the implied recognition of Israel, because the Oslo framework is predicated on a two-state solution. "But this [recognition of Israel] is not something that needs to be up front," he said. The official said there was a growing feeling in Europe that it was a tactical mistake to agree to bundle all the conditions into one demand, "since not all three requirements are of the same value." "There is some realization," he said, that "putting things so bluntly wasn't constructive and drove Hamas into the arms of the radical wing in Damascus." He said this reevaluation of the three conditions is part of a general stocktaking in Europe of the situation in the Middle East. "It is part of coming to grips with the reality that after seven months, things have gone nowhere and are worse than they were, especially after the war in Lebanon," he said. Diplomatic officials in Israel acknowledged that there were voices calling for a reassessment of the three conditions inside Europe. But, one said, "for the time being" it does not look like Europe would "soften" the three conditions or stagger them. But, he stressed, the operative words were "for the time being," and this might change as these voices gain traction. The concern is that if Hamas continues to stubbornly toe "a hard line," the Europeans will say: "Oops, maybe we should cave in," he said, adding however that as of now Germany, Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Denmark and Holland are holding firm behind the three conditions. The senior European diplomat said that current efforts by the Arab League to resuscitate the Saudi initiative of 2002 and present it to the UN Security Council later this month are "one of the levers left to bring about a national Palestinian consensus." He said that while he did not envision a weak Olmert government accepting a plan that essentially called on Israel first to withdraw from all the territories, including the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, and then get Arab recognition, the initiative was a "tactical move to get Hamas to realize that its position is untenable, and that if it wants anything to move it needs to declare in favor of a two state solution." He dismissed as meaningless a proposed meeting at this time between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, since he said Abbas has no control, and Fatah has little standing, inside the PA. "It's quite useless to talk to Abbas," he said. "He can convey messages to [PA Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh, but Haniyeh will say what [Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled] Mashaal wants him to say. Mashaal is pulling the strings." In a related development, Vice Premier Shimon Peres said on Army Radio, amid reports that a deal was in the works for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, that once the soldier was freed, Olmert would invite Abbas for a long-anticipated meeting. "The moment that this matter is solved, the matter of our captive soldiers, and I hope it will be solved, that is what will happen," Peres said.