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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

US won't cut PA ties if Hamas in cabinet

After HaAretz reported yesterday that the US would shun the Palestinian Authority if Hamas were to be in the coalition after tomorrow's 'Palestinian elections,' the Jerusalem Post is reporting today that - surprise, surprise, surprise! - the US will not cut ties with the Palestinian Authority if Hamas is in the cabinet.

Some of you may recall that I posted two days ago that this would happen.

The US won't deal with Hamas ministers in a future Palestinian Authority government, but will also not cut off ties with the PA as a result of Hamas's inclusion, diplomatic officials said Monday.

According to the officials, the US formula for dealing with a PA government following Wednesday's elections would be based on the "Lebanese model." In Lebanon, the officials said, the US continues to have strong ties with the government in Beirut even though Hizbullah is part of it. It does not, however, have any contact with the one Hizbullah minister.

The officials said that since Hamas was on the US list of terrorist organizations, the US would be legally proscribed from having contact or dealing with Hamas officials, even if they were PA ministers.

At the same time, they said, the law would not necessarily proscribe the US from continuing to deal with the PA or contributing money to it.

These comments came as Israeli diplomats were quietly holding conversations with their counterparts in Europe and the US over the steps they should take if Hamas became the dominant force inside the PA.

Now this is interesting:

Meanwhile, Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said at the Herzliya Conference Monday that Israel's muddled policy on Hamas was partly responsible for its already having gained political legitimacy through the election process.
He said this contradictory policy had cost it a "great diplomatic opportunity" to stand firm and prevent Hamas's participation in the elections in the West Bank.

Years ago the Americans and the Israelis demanded that to talk to the PLO, the organization had to recognize both UN Security Council Resolution 242 - Israel's right to exist - and renounce terrorism. Today, he said, the world legitimizes Hamas without demanding from it what was demanded from the PLO a quarter-century ago.

"There are those who believe that the organization is mellowing, that it is shedding its original mission," he said. "There are those who even say that Hamas holds the key to the eventual settlement of the conflict. Accept this analysis at your peril," Satloff warned against mistaking tactical flexibility for strategic change, and said Hamas would have no trouble talking with Israel, out of the belief that it could negotiate Israel out of existence.


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