- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

TEL AVIV — The United States said yesterday it will talk to certain non-Hamas members of the new Palestinian Authority Cabinet amid signs of weakening international resolve to isolate the new government.

The European Union said financial aid to the Palestinian Authority would still be agreed to on three conditions set by the Middle East Quartet, but individual countries said they wanted to see an end to the sanctions.

Israel’s Cabinet voted overwhelmingly not to recognize the new government, but some ministers advocated a selective dialogue with the Palestinians.

Although the Bush administration criticized Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s address at a confirmation ceremony for the new Cabinet on Saturday as “very disappointing,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem said the United States would work with pro-Western Cabinet members in an informal capacity.

“There are individuals with whom we have fairly regular contact who are members of the unity of the government,” said Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm. “We are not going to rule out that we could have contact with those individuals as individuals … because they play important roles in society.”

The formation of a Hamas-only Cabinet a year ago prompted a broad political and aid boycott by members of the so-called Quartet of peace negotiators — the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

The boycott was a diplomatic victory for Israel, but that has been jeopardized by the establishment of a Hamas-Fatah unity government with the blessing of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that the new Palestinian foreign minister, Ziyad Abu Amr, has received an invitation to visit an EU member state.

France reportedly called for the easing of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, while Norway, which isn’t a member of the EU, announced that it would recognize the new Palestinian government and restore economic aid. Ramiro Cibrian, head of the EU delegation to Israel, said the new Palestinian government “creates a new reality.”

The new Palestinian government has not, however, been able to snuff out the lawlessness plaguing the Palestinian territories. Gunmen clashed yesterday in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

The softer tone toward the Palestinian government threatens to leave Israel as the only country with a complete boycott of the Palestinians, and even it is willing to discuss humanitarian issues with Mr. Abbas.

A dialogue of sorts between Israeli and Palestinian ministers also was conducted yesterday over the airwaves. Mr. Abu Amr, the new Palestinian foreign minister, spoke on Israel’s state-run radio saying the Israeli government “doesn’t know what it wants” and calling on Israel to release the customs funds that it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

Members of the Labor Party, such as Defense Minister Amir Peretz, have said that Israel should negotiate with Mr. Abbas on a final peace deal to strengthen moderate Palestinians and isolate Hamas.

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party, said he supports talking with members of the government who respect the three international conditions — recognition of Israel, honoring of past peace agreements and a foreswearing of violence.

The secular Fatah party largely accepts those conditions. Hamas, however, refuses to recognize Israel and insists that violent “resistance” to the Israel army is Palestinians’ legitimate right.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide