Rice talks on Israel, Palestine reach impasse

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
4 Min Read

Israel wants Fatah-Hamas strife to continue, experts say

CAIRO: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s latest foray into the murky world of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute has gleaned little progress in light of the changed circumstances in domestic Palestinian politics.

Rice met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Berlin Wednesday as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The meetings were held separately.

Under the auspices of the Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – the meetings were held to review the situation after the formation of the Palestinian unity government that comprises elements of both Fatah and Hamas and brought and end to the recent strife between the two factions.

The US and Israel insist that negotiations cannot go further unless Hamas recognizes the state of Israel and existing peace agreements.

However, political science professor at Cairo University Ahmed Thabet believes that this stipulation is merely a ploy to turn Fatah and Hamas against each other once again.

He believes Hamas is not required to recognize Israel as part of any negotiations as it has no bearing on the matter.

“The Palestinians agreed in the National Reconciliation Agreement of July 26 that all negotiations, which include recognition, with the Israeli side are the domain of the Presidential office, which is controlled by Fatah. The government’s role is an administrative one, so the national unity government is not required to recognize Israel. That is irrelevant.

However, Israel believes that the formation of the national unity government is a stumbling block in any further negotiations.

Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the press Tuesday: “the agreements between Hamas and Abu Mazen disappoint all who supported separating the extremists from the moderates and creating an alternative government in the Palestinian Authority.

Therefore, Israel will not pursue any peace settlement with Abbas if he forms a cabinet which includes Hamas members in it.

Abbas however has held fast to the agreement, and told Rice that he would not go back on the national unity government.

Osama Al-Najjar, head of the union of health workers in the West Bank told AP that unity is more important than false dawns from the West. He said “Kneeling to the American and Israeli demands has given us nothing before.

Abbas had met with Rice Tuesday in Jordan, also in a separate meeting with King Abdullah II. He stated that the talks had been tense and difficult, but this did not signal failure he added.

Abbas said: “We told Israel that this agreement was made to protect the unity of the Palestinian people and its national interests. The agreement is an expression of support for Palestinian interests, but Israel may have misunderstood it.

Thabet believes that Israel is trying to instigate fresh strife between Hamas and Fatah with their demands. “The US and Israel want to keep things burning between Fatah and Hamas. The Quartet is backing Israel despite its support for the national unity government, he said.

“Even if we don’t agree with what Hamas stands for as a fundamentalist organization or what they say, they are still the democratically elected government, Thabet added.

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