Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 5, 2006
Pressure by the international community on Hamas is bearing fruit, Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters in France on Tuesday.
"Almost a year after Hamas came to power, we are beginning to see signs of
change, which is partly due to pressure by the international community," Livni
said at the beginning of her two-day visit during which she is scheduled to
meet French President Jacques Chirac in Paris and press him not to abandon the
road map or water down the international community's three criteria for
dealing with the Palestinian Authority government.
Earlier Tuesday, Livni met French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The
foreign minister called on the international community to continue to demand
that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist even after the
establishment of a PA unity government.
According to Israeli diplomatic officials, Livni will also be carrying a
message that the Gaza cease-fire and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's address at
Sde Boker last week have created a new momentum and laid out a political
horizon, and therefore there was no reason to begin developing new diplomatic
plans or initiatives.
Last month Chirac seemed to be putting his weight behind a new diplomatic
initiative announced by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Chirac, at a press conference in Spain where Zapatero announced the
initiative, said, "We are going to act jointly with the Spanish and Italian
governments, with the cooperation of the EU... to try to initiate the
indispensable moral and political reforms in the Middle East."
Livni's visit to France is part of an Israeli diplomatic offensive before next
week's summit of European leaders where the Middle East is expected to play a
In addition to Livni's trip, Olmert will be holding talks with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel next Tuesday in Berlin and with Italian Prime
Minister Romano Prodi next Wednesday in Rome. The European leaders are set to
meet the next day.
But according to senior European diplomatic sources, no new Mideast paper will
be presented at the meeting of European leaders in Brussels.
Italy, which was mentioned along with France and Spain as one of the
initiative's cosponsors, has backed down from some of the plan's main
elements, including the convening of an international peace conference or the
dispatching of "observers" to Gaza, saying that such moves needed the
agreement of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The initiative also called for an immediate cease-fire.
The EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, said Tuesday that the goal
of the Spanish initiative was to serve as a "catalyst to 'overcome the
impasse' and in that sense we can consider that they have succeeded."
The first part of the plan was the cease-fire, he said, which has "already
been partially implemented." He said that in that sense the initiative has
"already been implemented, not in full but in part."
Regarding concerns in Jerusalem that the road map may be supplanted by other
initiatives, Cibrian-Uzal told The Jerusalem Post that "as of today our bible
continues to be the road map."
The EU ambassador said any other plan could be considered "only as a way to
update or to modify the road map, and so far there has not been any consensus
on the convenience or the wisdom of updating or modifying the road map."
Cibrian-Uzal said the EU was "staying by the road map as agreed by the
Quartet. That is our bottom line and it is our rock-solid position."
According to Cibrian-Uzal, the procession of European leaders who have visited
Israel in recent days, from the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana to
French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, have been urging an
immediate summit between Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas without
While Olmert has said he was ready to meet immediately, Abbas has conditioned
a meeting on the release of Palestinian prisoners.
According to the ambassador, "a number of European leaders are recommending to
Abu Mazen [Abbas] to seize the momentum and go ahead with this proposed
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