Mashaal to address British parliament

Hamas leader will talk to MPs via video conference; UK Foreign Office: No plans for government contact.

khaled mashaal 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
khaled mashaal 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is set to address a meeting of MPs and peers in the British Parliament via a video link from Damascus on Wednesday. Organized by independent MP Claire Short, a former Labor MP and government minister, and under the auspices of Liberal Democrat peer Lord John Alderdice, the meeting is set to discuss the notion that there can be no peace in the Middle East without speaking to the Islamist organization. "Most serious commentators now believe that there can be no peace in the Middle East without talking to Hamas. In addition, we may be facing the last chance for a two-state solution," reads the invitation to the event. "In 2006, Hamas won more than 65.2 percent of the vote in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Since then, Gaza has been besieged, boycotted and bombarded. There has been great human misery, but no progress and no improved security for anyone, including Israel, which is still the target of missiles," says the invitation. Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor opposed Mashaal's involvement in the meeting. "Hamas's charter states categorically that there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. One can only presume that those who invite terrorists to speak at Westminster either share this view or utterly fail to comprehend its implications," he said. "Claire Short and Lord Alderdice offer no attempt to persuade Hamas to change its policies of missiles and murder. Instead, they attempt to sanitize, legitimize and reward an organization and ideology that remains committed to violence, bloodshed and the destruction of a sovereign state," Prosor added. Britain, along with the European Union and US, deems Hamas a terrorist group and has pledged to isolate it until it adopts the Quartet principles - recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous interim peace accords. Prosor contended that "the British parliament is an icon of the democratic values to which Hamas is violently opposed. It's ironic that the mother of all parliaments should play host to a leader who seeks to subjugate his people to a theocratic nightmare based on the oppression, torture and execution of religious and political opponents." The British Foreign Office said on Tuesday that talking to Hamas would undermine the Palestinians who wanted peace. "We are aware that some MPs are planning to talk to members of Hamas in a private capacity on Wednesday. There are no plans for any government contacts," the Foreign Office said. "We do not believe it is productive to talk to Hamas directly. Hamas is a terrorist organization, they fire rockets at innocent civilians, they put ordinary Palestinians in harm's way, and they murder and maim their political opponents. We believe that to talk to Hamas directly at this time would simply undermine those Palestinians who are committed to peace," a Foreign Office spokesperson said. The Foreign Office added that the Arab League had mandated Egypt to communicate with Hamas and that it was in regular contact with both. Short resigned from then-prime minister Tony Blair's cabinet in 2003 to protest Britain's involvement in Iraq. In a 2007 article in the Irish Times, Short condemned Israel as being guilty of "bloody, brutal and systematic annexation of land, destruction of homes and the deliberate creation of an apartheid system." She also said that Britain and the European Union were "colluding in this operation and the building of a new apartheid regime" because they gave Israel preferential trade access. Short supports a boycott of Israel, saying at a 2007 UN conference that a boycott had worked for South Africa and that Israel was "much worse than the original apartheid state." In 2005, Short said US backing for "Israeli policies of expansion of the Israeli state and oppression of the Palestinian people" was the major cause of bitter division and violence in the world. Last month, Short was part of a delegation of four British MPs who met Mashaal in Damascus.