Arab parties urge talks with Hamas

Islamic Movement candidate: 'Only the strong can make peace. Not Meretz.'

a sanaa barakei (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
a sanaa barakei
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As they bicker over spots on coalition lists for the upcoming elections, the Israeli Arab politicians have finally agreed on something: Israel should talk to Hamas. Whether it be the uncompromising secularists of the Balad Party or the sheikhs from the Islamist Party, they all say that talking to the Hamas-elected government of the Palestinian Authority is a must. "Israel should respect the democratic choice of the Palestinian people," said MK Jamal Zahalka of the Balad Party, adding that the international community should also respect the results. "Especially the US, which is pushing for the democratization of Arab and Muslim societies." Sheikh Abbas Zakour, a member of the southern faction of the Islamic Movement who is running for the number four slot on the United Arab List, believes that as hardliners, Hamas can be a better partner for negotiations than Fatah. "I am sure that only Hamas can bring peace," said Zakour. "Just like your strongman Sharon can affect your hardliners to agree to peace, Hamas can also do that," he continued. "Only the strong can make peace. Not Meretz." MK Taleb a-Sanaa, head of the MADA party and slotted for number three on the UAL coalition, noted that just like the Israelis would like a different partner, the Palestinians "would have liked someone different from Sharon, but that's who Israelis chose." The Arab Israeli politicians have followed closely the statements by Hamas and have recognized how it has become more moderate. "Look, Ismail Haniyeh [the head of the Hamas list] said he recognizes the fact that Israel exists," said Sanaa. "Hamas differentiates between the State of Israel and the occupation of Israel in the Palestinian territories. After the withdrawal from Gaza, they said they will move the struggle to the West Bank, not to Acre or Haifa. If Israel will announce its desire to end the occupation of pre-'67 borders, including east Jerusalem, Hamas will want to negotiate with Israel." Sanaa noted that the vote for Hamas by the Palestinians was not a vote to destroy Israel. "Polls say that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians want to negotiate with Israel," he said. Meanwhile, MK Ahmed Tibi's Ta'al party decided late Monday night to join the UAL after it was offered the second spot. Ta'al was in a coalition with Hadash in the last Knesset getting the third spot, but this time Hadash only offered it the fourth spot. Ta'al refused. "We opposed any change to the conditions of the agreement between Hadash and Ta'al in 2003," said Osama Shaadi. "We believe that we should get a higher spot and not be pushed back. The second spot on the UAL List is a move up and we said wherever Ta'al is there will be the strongest list and so it will be now." The move by Ta'al to UAL means that the other two Arab parties, Hadash and Balad, need to decide whether to make a coalition. The recent raising of the electoral threshold means it is possible that if they do not unite, neither party will get into the Knesset. Zahalka said that Hadash and Balad had now agreed to negotiate over whether to form a coalition. But Azmi Bishara's party is also unlikely to accept the fourth spot.