Former Mossad chief urges Israeli talks with Hamas

Halevy says any peace accord reached with Abbas without Hamas was likely to be ineffective.

efraim halevy 88 298 (photo credit: )
efraim halevy 88 298
(photo credit: )
Israel should hold talks with Hamas since no peace agreement with the Palestinians is viable without the inclusion of the violent Islamic group, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy said Tuesday. The former spy chief's opinion clashes with the government's long-standing position of shunning Hamas for its refusal to recognize Israel or renounce violence. But Halevy said that any peace accord reached with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas without Hamas was likely to be ineffective and "remain on the shelf" since the Fatah leader was both weak and lacked authority. "It is difficult to believe that it is possible to reach an understanding with the Palestinians without Hamas being part of the solution," Halevy said in an address to the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel board of governors meeting in Jerusalem. Halevy suggested that Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings over the last seven years and whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, was beginning to show some signs of change, although he cautioned that they were insufficient to date. He argued that the group's interest in its own survival transcends its other objectives and said that Hamas, which is classified as a terror organization by the United States and European Union, was beginning to realize that control of territory comes with certain responsibilities. "They are making noises but not sufficient noises which are worthy of much more profound thinking," he said. The former spy-master said that Israel was "far away" from an end to the conflict with the Palestinians, and noted that in the years ahead would deal with conflict management and not conflict resolution. "The question is how to contain the flames," Halevy said. He suggested that a peace agreement would likely take generations, noting that Palestinian geography textbooks, in both the Hamas-run Gaza Strip as well as the Fatah-led West Bank, do not include the State of Israel on the map. His remarks come just days after Israel reached a six-month cease-fire agreement with Hamas in Gaza after months of on-again off-again negotiations via Egyptian intermediaries. The truce, which Halevy dubbed an "achievement" for Hamas, was violated Tuesday after Palestinians fired three rockets and a mortar into southern Israel, lightly injuring two people. In his hour-long address, the former Mossad chief, who immigrated to Israel from the UK as a teenager in 1948, also broke ranks with the Israeli establishment on the seriousness of the threat facing the Jewish State due to Iran's nuclear ambitions. Halevy opined that Israel was not facing an existential threat from Iran's nuclear program, since the Islamic Republic would not succeed in attaining nuclear weapons. "I am convinced that Israel cannot be destroyed," Halevy said. "We should not sink in to the doldrums of 'Israel is on the verge of extinction.'" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Halevy did not specify why Iran would not achieve nuclear capability, beyond suggesting that the international community needed to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic. He predicted that ultimately the US will talk to Iran, and said that Israel needed to be part of such a dialogue.