'Talking to Hamas hurts peace process'

Ambassador to UK: Int'l community has "moral duty" to support peaceful elements.

hefetz tzvi 298 courtesy (photo credit: Embassy website)
hefetz tzvi 298 courtesy
(photo credit: Embassy website)
Israel's Ambassador to the UK, Zvi Hefetz, said Tuesday that calling for a dialogue with extremists risks damaging the peace process. He was responding to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report published on Monday that called on Israel to negotiate with Hamas. In an article in Tuesday's Guardian newspaper, Ambassador Zvi Heifetz said the fresh hopes of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation would be destroyed by including Hamas and that the international community had a moral duty to support those working for peace. "The international community has a moral duty to support those who would bring peace and deny succour to those who would make war," he wrote. "We must continue to make clear to all the Palestinian factions that political progress cannot be achieved through violence." He declared that, despite the mindset, following various public relations successes, Hamas remains an extremist group with a "murderous ideology." "After the disengagement from Gaza, it was Hamas that terrorised Israeli civilians with a near-constant barrage of rockets fired from the very areas Israel had returned to Palestinian control," he wrote. "The world has seen the terrible damage that these attacks can do to everyday life in a small town like Sderot. Now Hamas has its sights set on the West Bank. What rockets fired from there could do to Tel Aviv, only a few miles inside the Green Line, does not bear thinking about." In the article, entitled 'This is no time to waver', Heifetz wrote that Israel had a viable partner in Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "In Mahmoud Abbas, we believe we have found a partner who can fulfill the national aspirations of the Palestinian people and deliver a meaningful peace," Heifetz contended. "Contrast this with Hamas, which, despite its public relations successes, remains an extremist group motivated by a murderous ideology, using violent and criminal means to meet its ends. Abbas himself has described Hamas members as terrorists, ruling out direct talks following the bloody coup in Gaza. Any attempt to do differently will undermine him, damaging both his ability to negotiate and to govern." The ambassador added that Abbas bore a heavy burden of responsibility ,but with the backing of the international community he could succeed. Heifetz wrote that the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike Gapes, is held by Israelis and Palestinians in high esteem "for his efforts to foster reconciliation in our region." However by calling for dialogue with extremists, he said, "he risks damaging the peace process just as a few green shoots are beginning to show." "I can only suppose that, like the rest of us, he is frustrated by the lack of substantial progress towards our common goal: an independent Palestinian state existing peacefully side by side with Israel," he wrote. "But following Hamas's coup in Gaza, a window of opportunity has opened for the formation of a new moderate Palestinian government. If we can build on this momentum, the regional summit planned for this autumn could bring real results." The Foreign Affairs Committee report said that the boycott of Hamas was "counterproductive" and concluded that a policy in which Britain would deal with the Fatah-controlled West Bank but isolate the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip "would further jeopardize peace." The report said: "Given the failure of the boycott [of Hamas] to deliver results, we recommend the government should urgently consider ways of engaging politically with moderate elements within Hamas." It also said that the road map "has largely become an irrelevance" and called for a new approach to ending the conflict. It also called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to improve Britain's influence in the Arab world because of damage done to its reputation by "its policies in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority." It also called on Tony Blair, in his new role as the Quartet's Middle East envoy, to personally engage with Hamas to foster reconciliation with the rival Fatah movement. Britain should also press Abbas to negotiate with Hamas to "re-establish a national unity government across the occupied Palestinian territories," the report urged.