FM: Fatah 'burying' any chance of peace

Lieberman says a deal with the Palestinians can't be forced because of "Hamastan" and "Fatahland."

Lieberman whoa hold it right there 248.8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Lieberman whoa hold it right there 248.8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
The political platform formulated at the Fatah General Assembly in Bethlehem, combined with unrest in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, "has buried any chance of coming to an agreement with the Palestinians in the next few years," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday. Speaking to 29 Democratic Congressmen in his Jerusalem office, Lieberman said that "the Palestinians' uncompromising, extremist positions on Jerusalem, right of return, and settlements are making a gap between us that can't be bridged." According to a statement from the Foreign Ministry, he also said that there was no body representing all Palestinians, though there is "Hamastan in Gaza and Fatahland in Judea and Samaria." The foreign minister told the Congressmen that Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians should include continuing dialogue, and improving both security arrangements and the economic situation in the West Bank. He warned that trying to force an agreement would inevitably end in failure, calling the current government policy "realistic." The Democratic delegation, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and accompanied by spouses and one mother, arrived in Israel on Sunday night and met on Monday with President Shimon Peres. In explaining to the Congressmen some of the problems that impeded the advancement of the peace process and the reaching of a permanent settlement, Peres said, "We have to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of Gaza. We left, and Hamas came in and started shooting against us." Peres also said that basically, Israel was in agreement with the US regarding settlements. The present government has committed itself not to build or provide funding for new settlements and to dismantle illegal settlements, he said, adding that the only real point of contention was over natural growth in existing settlements. He believed that with a little ingenuity, a solution could be found - and if not it was not a tragedy for Israel and America to disagree on one or two points. From his own perspective, Peres considered Obama's plan to be "positive, serious and sincere." Meanwhile, Fatah delegates expressed hope on Monday that the elections for the faction's Central Committee and Revolutionary Council would see the rise of young guard activists. Voting for the two bodies was extended to allow Fatah delegates stranded in the Gaza Strip to cast their ballots by phone and e-mail. Hamas banned some 400 Fatah operatives from leaving the Gaza Strip to participate in the General Conference, which opened in Bethlehem last week. Despite the decision to extend the voting, some delegates complained that they were not given a chance to vote. One of them, Fatah legislator Ashraf Juma'a, said he and many of his colleagues in the Gaza Strip were unable to vote by late Monday "because no one called us from Bethlehem." Fatah operative Hakam Balawi expressed hope that the vote would pave the way for the emergence of fresh and young faces. "I hope that two-thirds of those who win the elections are from the young guard," Balawi said, adding that the convention was close to ending its deliberations with "major achievements." He defended Fatah's decision to endorse "all forms of resistance" against Israel, saying every Palestinian had the moral and national right to struggle toward establishing a Palestinian state. Balawi also launched a scathing attack on Hamas and accused it of trying to disrupt the Fatah assembly by barring delegates from traveling to the West Bank. However, he said that despite the continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinians must refrain from beating and killing one another, "because we are all brothers." Nabil Amr, spokesman for the convention, denied allegations by some delegates regarding fraud and forgery during the voting process. He said that most of the delegates had voiced satisfaction over the transparency and openness of the vote. He too expressed hope that the elections would see the rise of a new leadership in Fatah. Commenting on the new-old political platform of Fatah that was endorsed by the convention over the weekend, Nabil Sha'ath, a top Fatah official, said it gave hope to most Palestinians that they are headed toward a bright future. He said that the endorsement of the platform, which calls for pursuing "all forms of resistance" against Israel, would also pave the way for uniting the Palestinians and the return of all refuges to their original homes inside Israel. In response to criticism voiced by Israel, Fatah spokesman Fahmi Za'areer said it was a mistake to call Fatah radical simply because it wants to end occupation. Fatah, he added, is a national movement whose goal is to liberate the Palestinians from occupation. "The presence of the occupation is the reason why the resistance began," he said. "Ending occupation is a prerequisite for stopping the resistance." Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.