The European Union should not "fall" for moderate-sounding statements the Hamas leadership will likely issue in the near future to gain international legitimacy and financing, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday, referring specifically to the possibility that Hamas will endorse the 2002 Saudi peace initiative.
Livni's comments came during a meeting she had with visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. Livni praised Moratinos for Spain's "uncompromising position" regarding the need for Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous agreements before being granted international legitimacy.
She stressed the need for Europe to take a unanimous position on this matter, and said that lowering the bar on these three conditions now would make diplomatic progress more difficult in the future.
Livni's reference to the Saudi initiative comes as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League have in recent days been pressing Hamas to accept the Saudi plan.
The plan, adopted at the Arab Summit in Beirut in March 2002, calls on Arab states to "normalize relations" with Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state following an Israeli withdrawal to the green line, and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194. This resolution called on Israel to allow the return of Palestinian refugees and compensate who don't want to do so.
Israel rejected the initiative, which has since been welcomed by UN Security Council resolution 1397 and mentioned in the road map.
One senior diplomatic official said that, in conversations with her colleagues, Livni has made clear that Israel would not accept any attempt by Hamas to "implicitly" recognize Israel's right to exist by accepting the Saudi plan or any other diplomatic effort.
Although attempts to get Hamas to accept the initiative before last month's Arab League summit in Sudan fell far short, some diplomatic officials feel that the likelihood that Hamas might now accept the idea would increase as its international isolation - and lack of international funding for the PA - continued.
"Right now Hamas's friends are Syria and Iran," one Israeli diplomatic official said. "This is obviously something they will try to change."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, when asked whether Israel would be satisfied with a Hamas acceptance of the Saudi initiative, said, "They have been asked to unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept all previous agreement. There can be no ifsâ€š ands or buts." Regev did not, however, say that Israel would categorically rule out Hamas's acceptance of the Saudi initiative. If they did accept the Saudi plan, he said, "We have to see what they say and how they say it."
The Tel-Aviv-based Re'ut think tank issued a position paper on the issue Monday saying that, while accepting the plan would theoretically be an ideological compromise for Hamas, it would allow the organization to evade explicitly recognizing Israel; break up the international coalition currently isolating Hamas; and kick the ball back into Israel's court, since this would likely forced Jerusalem to re-examine its own rejection of the Saudi initiative.
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana wrote an article in the Al Hayat
newspaper published Monday that explained to the Arab public why Europe had taken the position it had regarding the three conditions for granting legitimacy to Hamas.
In the article, Solana also came out squarely against Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to unilaterally set the country's border by withdrawing form large parts of the West Bank, saying, "Unilateral solutions will not generate justice or stability."
Olmert has said that he would carry out the plan only after consultations with the US and the international community.
Regarding Hamas and the three international conditions, Solana wrote that "Europe has always been at the forefront in defending Palestinian national aspirations," and that Europe's "solidarity with the Palestinian people has never wavered." Solana said that, while Europe respected the Palestinians' democratic choice, "If the party in power no longer shares the peace agenda underpinning our partnership" then the EU was "obliged to reflect on the conditions under which the European Community may continue to use European taxpayers' money in the context of assistance to the Palestinians and their institutions."
"Terrorism can never be justified," Solana wrote. "The right to resist occupation, the recognized right of all occupied peoples, does not justify the atrocities committed in its name, whatever the actions or the means used by the occupying power." He also said that compliance with past commitments was a necessary condition for stable international relations, and that "reciprocal recognition [between Israel and the PA] is not an option, it is a necessity, even if that does not imply acceptance of all the other party's demands." The Foreign Ministry had no comment on Solana's article.