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Monday, February 12, 2007

Reuters: Israel mulls suspending ties over Abbas-Hamas deal

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/02/reuters-israel-mulls-suspending-ties.html

This report was denied by the Israeli government, but Reutrers has not changed it.
 

Israel mulls suspending ties over Abbas-Hamas deal
12 Feb 2007 17:53:18 GMT

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L12713585.htm

By Adam Entous

JERUSALEM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Israel is considering suspending contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if his new unity government with Hamas does not meet international demands, Israeli officials said on Monday.

The move could increase pressure on Abbas but hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Feb. 19.

Olmert told Israeli lawmakers he needed to assess where Abbas stood following his power-sharing deal with the governing Hamas movement.

"Now they are one and they are one government," Olmert said, according to a parliamentary spokesman. "If (the new government) insists on the same stance, Abu Mazen (Abbas) would be moving from the positions that he had earlier."

Advisers to Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met on Monday to consider their response to the unity deal.

"One option under serious discussion is severing contacts with Abu Mazen," said one of the officials involved in the deliberations.

Israeli officials said a suspension of contacts may only be temporary and that a final decision will not be made until the unity government is in place, a process that could take a month or longer.

Israel's response also depended on whether Abbas and the new government secured the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Gilad Shalit can serve as a test," Olmert said.

An Israeli defence official said ties with Mohammed Dahlan, a top Abbas aide who had spearheaded Fatah's power struggle with Hamas, were also in doubt.

Dahlan took part in the Saudi-brokered unity talks, which led to the signing of a power-sharing pact in Mecca last Thursday. His role in the new Palestinian government is unclear.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said: "We expect the Palestinian government ... to accept all three of the international community's conditions, and that includes recognition of Israel's right to exist, full acceptance and implementation of former agreements, complete stopping of terror actions and a clear renunciation of terror and violence."

Western donors cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power in an election a year ago.

In Brussels, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external relations commissioner, said the EU had to study details of the proposed administration.

NEW GOVERNMENT

A Hamas official had said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh could unveil the new government before a Feb. 21 meeting of the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators, the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations.

But Salah al-Bardaweel, spokesman of the Hamas parliament bloc, said it might take another four weeks because Fatah and Hamas had yet to agree on who would take the posts of deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Fighting between Hamas and Fatah killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February.

Washington organised the Feb. 19 summit to explore the contours of a Palestinian state but the focus may shift to U.S. and Israeli concerns about the unity government deal.

"This puts us in a very difficult position," a senior Israeli official said, referring to U.S.-led efforts to strengthen Abbas, who seeks a negotiated peace with Israel. "Our assumptions have been shattered. What do we do?"

The Mecca deal made no explicit commitment to recognise Israel. A letter from Abbas reappointing Haniyeh as prime minister contained a vague call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)


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