US, EU making overtures towards PA

US wants "open channel" with PA representative; Israel rejects unity gov't.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The US will maintain an unofficial communication channel with Salam Fayad, expected to be appointed to the position of finance minister in the new Palestinian Authority unity government, Israel Radio said on Friday. US officials said they would maintain relations with Fayad even if the unity government would not recognize Israel, would not abandon its commitment to terror and would not condemn violent resistance to Israel. Also on Friday, the future foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority Ziad Abu Amer received an invitation for an official visit in France. French and British officials announced that their countries would hold diplomatic relations with Fatah cabinet ministers in the new Palestinian unity government with Hamas, Channel 2 reported. Earlier Friday, Israeli officials expressed dissatisfaction with the new coalition in the Palestinian Authority. "Israel must circumvent the new Palestinian Authority unity government and try to strike a peace agreement with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. That is the only way to drive Hamas from power," Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Friday morning, joining several Israeli leaders who criticized the new PA unity government which was formed the previous day. Speaking to Israel Radio, Sneh said that Israel would boycott the coalition between Hamas and Fatah and "explain to the international community that it can't work with a government like this."
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  • Excerpts from new unity government platform Sheh asserted that the Hamas-Fatah coalition did not meet international conditions, including recognizing Israel's right to exist. Political leaders in Jerusalem reiterated that Israel would not establish any contact with the new PA government and Jerusalem officials called on the international community to boycott the government until it fulfils the conditions of the International Quartet, Army Radio reported. Nevertheless, among European nations, there were increased calls to negotiate with the new PA government and to be satisfied with the government's declaration that it would honor past agreements with Israel. The most positive reaction came from Moscow. "It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement Thursday, noting that the Mecca accord "took into account" the Quartet's conditions. The new government, formed after months of stormy negotiations, is set to be approved by the Palestinian parliament on Saturday. PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Thursday he hoped the new government would "launch a new era" for the Palestinians. Meanwhile, senior government officials said that reviving the idea of unilateral withdrawal was one of the options being considered inside the Prime Minister's Office in the wake of the formation of the new PA government whose platform Israel views as intransigent. The officials said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not believe that Israel could afford to remain at a diplomatic standstill, and that if there were no Palestinian government with whom to negotiate a two-state solution, Israel might once more begin drawing borders on its own. Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said that "we won't recognize or deal with the new Palestinian government until it complies with the Quartet's three principles." "We won't even deal with or recognize members of the government who we have dealt with in the past," she added. According to government officials, Olmert has always said he preferred a negotiated settlement, but that if this were not possible, then Israel would act unilaterally. The officials said that Olmert did not say after the war in Lebanon that his realignment plan was shelved, only that the Israeli public "did not have an appetite for it" at the time. Asked if the Prime Minister's Office feels that the Israeli public now has regained an appetite for unilateral moves, one official asked, "Does the public have the stomach to stay forever in Judea and Samaria? Is that a better option?" According to sources in the PMO, Israel will continue to speak with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, but that these talks would focus on day-to-day and humanitarian issues - what one official called "small change" - not about fundamental issues. "We can't talk substance with Abbas, because there is a real question now about whom he represents," one source said. He added, however, that Israel was interested in keeping the lines of communication with him open. PMO officials said Olmert did not hit the phones Thursday and canvass world leaders to remain steadfast behind the Quartets' three principles - that the new PA government must recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements - because Israel's position on this has been consistent and is well known. Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry began a campaign on Thursday to keep the world from recognizing the new government. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, "The Palestinian government platform shows clearly that it refuses to accept the three benchmarks of the international community. Accordingly, Israel will not deal with this government and we call upon the international community to be steadfast behind its own principles and not to give recognition to this government." Regev said that not only was there no positive momentum in the platform, there was "a clear regression in the language on a number of points." For instance, he said that on the issue of Cpl. Gilad Schalit, the platform absolved itself of any responsibility; on the issue of terrorism, the platform doesn't even do something that the so-called Prisoners' Document did a few months back - distinguish between terrorism inside Israel and in the West Bank; and regarding negotiations, Hamas has given itself a veto over Abbas's right to negotiate. "For all these reasons," Regev said, "when you look at the text you see a regression in the Palestinian position." Regev said the political platform was now the strongest weapon in Israel's diplomatic arsenal, adding: "We believe that when we go through the document with the Quartet, they will see clearly that this is not a positive development, and that it would be serious mistake to reinforce it."