Hamas unity bid on Netanyahu's London-Paris agenda

JERUSALEM Tue May 3, 2011 6:13am EDT

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the official ceremony opening Holocaust Remembrance Day, at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem May 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to use a visit to Britain and France to portray Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's unity deal with Hamas Islamists as a blow to already dim prospects for peace.

Netanyahu is due to hold talks in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday and see French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Thursday.

It will be the Israeli leader's first trip abroad since the surprise announcement last week that Abbas and his long-time rival Hamas had agreed to a unity pact that envisages formation of an interim government and Palestinian elections this year.

"This is a major problem and raises all sorts of questions, and that issue will be very much on the table," an Israeli government official said on Tuesday.

"If the (Palestinians) are going for a unity government with Hamas, there's no doubt that's a step in the wrong direction -- a very negative step."

Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from Abbas's Fatah movement in 2007, calls for Israel's destruction in its founding charter although it has offered a long-term truce in return for Palestinian statehood.

Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas, and the United States and the European Union also shun the group over its refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.

"Obviously, we want the process with the Palestinians to move forward, but up until now their refusal to engage was a problem and now their decision to bring in Hamas, the antithesis of peace, has further aggravated a negative situation," the Israeli official said, giving an overview of Netanyahu's stance.

TALKS FIZZLE

U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian talks on a permanent peace agreement were revived in September but quickly fizzled after Netanyahu refused to extend a limited building moratorium in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and wanted by Palestinians as part of a future state.

Palestinian leaders have defended the unity agreement, saying reconciliation with Hamas reflects a deep-seated public desire to end internal differences.

The new government, they said, would be comprised of independents and peace talks with Israel would remain the responsibility of Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization, to which Hamas does not belong.

On Sunday, in response to the unity steps, Israel blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of Abbas's Palestinian Authority, a move likely to be raised during the British and French talks with Netanyahu.

Palestinian unity also could help bolster an expected bid by Abbas to win U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in September, the target date Washington had set for a peace agreement when talks were revived briefly eight months ago.

Israel has been mounting a diplomatic drive against any U.N. statehood ratification.

Netanyahu is due to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in three weeks' time, and aims to focus on the regional upheaval, Iran's nuclear program and the Palestinian issue. He has given no specific details of what he will say.

While those issues will be on the table during his talks in Britain and France, the Palestinian unity moves will be "front and center", the Israeli official said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday that Britain welcomed the deal to end the feud between the factions.

"Of course lots of details have to be worked out and we will have to judge everyone by their actions and intentions. We will continue to work closely on this," Hague said during a visit to Cairo.

The Israeli official said Hamas's praise of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader killed by U.S. forces on Sunday, "should serve as a wake-up call" to anyone who believed it was anything less than an extreme Islamic organization.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (1)
anonym0us wrote:
Some time last decade an Austrian right wing party, that was just perceived as neo-Nazi (never convicted or even officially charged – anything Nazi is a crime in Austria, just saying “Heil Hitler” can land you in jail for years on end) joined the government after winning tons of votes. When it happened, Austria became a pariah in EU and around the world, and kept a pariah for the duration of the government.
Hamas is not just perceived as a terrorist organization – they never hid their stated goal (destruction of Israel) and ways (all kinds of violence, including, but not limited to, terror). Yet some believe that the government inclusive of them may be a partner for negotiations and peace. Is it blindness, or just plain old Antisemitism? After all, they threaten only Jews, who don’t have the right to exist in the first place. But don’t fool yourself. Any Infidel is a fair game for them, and recent murder of the Italian peace activist is a proof. If, by some magic or the action of their Allah, all Jews were wiped off the face of Earth, Hamas will immediately begin targeting Christians and other Infidels. Their stated goal – Palestine from the river to the sea – is but a step stone on the way to worldwide Islamic Caliphate.

May 03, 2011 8:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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