Bibi against talks with a Hamas-PA gov't

Aides say Hamas-Fatah merger would create more radical, rather than more moderate political entity.

netanyahu knesset 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
netanyahu knesset 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to lobby Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week against US recognition of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, top advisers to Netanyahu said Wednesday. Zalman Shoval, one of Netanyahu's five primary foreign policy advisers, said the Netanyahu diplomatic team was "trying to persuade whomever" that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea. "We shall try to convince our American friends that this is not something that would help the peace process, and that it would only make it easier for all sorts of other players - the Europeans and the Russians - to deal with Hamas," he said. "To return Hamas as a partner is not what America is interested in." Shoval said history had shown that when there was an amalgamation between a moderate and an extremist party, it was only a matter of time before the extremists called the shots. He used as an example the Nazi party's union in 1933 with the German National People's Party. He noted that within a year the latter party had disappeared and concluded that the end result of a Hamas-Fatah merger would not be a more moderate Palestinian political entity, but a more radical one. "The idea is the wrong one," he said, adding that Netanyahu's camp believed the right approach was to continue to isolate Hamas. "I'm not saying we can prevent it, but we should try," he said. Another adviser to Netanyahu said that the international community had laid out three conditions for Hamas to accept, and that it was necessary for Hamas to accept them and not sweep them under the rug. Those conditions are recognizing Israel's right to exist, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. According to the adviser, Israel did not want to strengthen Hamas, but at the same time wanted to find a mechanism whereby assistance could be provided to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. This, the adviser said, was likely to be the focus of talks over the next few days both with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who Netanyahu will meet shortly after his arrival Thursday, and Clinton, who will arrive next Monday. The officials said that Israel would insist that the international community's conditions for dealing with Hamas were met, and not be changed because Hamas refused to comply. Hamas's refusal to accept Israel's existence, and its terrorist activities, were core problems, the adviser said, and it would be counterproductive to overlook the problems by seeking structural reform. The adviser added that structural reform would not make the core problems disappear. The adviser dismissed concern that the upcoming international conference on the reconstruction of Gaza scheduled for Sharm e-Sheikh on Monday, in which billions of dollars were expected to be pledged, including some $900 million from the US, would effectively tie Israel's hands regarding a possible future military operation in Gaza, since the world would not look favorably on a situation where it was spending billions in Gaza, only to have Israel go back in and wreak havoc. The adviser said that Israel's right to self-defense was sacrosanct, and that it would continue to exercise that right when it felt it needed to. The reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, and finding ways to enable the region's construction without strengthening Hamas, are expected to dominate talks Mitchell will have Thursday with Israeli leaders, as well as talks Clinton will hold when she arrives from the reconstruction conference next week. In addition to Mitchell, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will arrive for talks Thursday as part of a regional tour, as will Norwegian foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store. Store, who will be staying Thursday night at the American Colony Hotel in east Jerusalem, and in what seems an attempt at balance, will stay over the weekend at the King David, is scheduled to go to Gaza on Friday. Although Norway is one of only a few countries that continued to have contact with Hamas after the organization came to power in 2006, Store is not expected to meet Hamas representatives. Israeli officials said that they had not been informed of any planned meeting with Hamas in Gaza, and that such a meeting would obviously have precluded any possible meeting between Store and Olmert or Barak. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday that speaking to Hamas was "the right thing to do," but Egypt and other parties were best suited to talking directly to the group. In an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Miliband said Egypt was acting on behalf of the whole world in its dealings with Hamas. "Egypt has been nominated... to speak to Hamas on behalf of the Arab League but actually on behalf of the whole world," Miliband said. "Others speak to Hamas. That's the right thing to do and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward."