NEWS

Terror by Hamas must stop

Mr President, you are here at a time of great change in your country, both in Israeli and Palestinian politics as well as regarding developments in the broader region. We have made historical progress over the last 12 years. Many changes. Many steps. And I hope that we will be able to continue from the point where we stopped before the elections. There are three historical decisions that have been taken by Israel: the Oslo Agreement in 1993, the Road Map, including Israeli recognition of an independent Palestinian State, and the Disengagement Plan, the evacuation of 25 settlements. Now Hamas has won the elections; after the elections Hamas has continued (to state that) Israel has no right to exist, that they will continue with terrorism and not respect the international commitments made by Yasser Arafat and Abu Abbas. It is impossible and I am very satisfied by the international reaction. Europe, Greece, the Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia) are not giving Hamas the possibility of escape from these three commitments. I believe that if they stop the terrorism and if they respect international commitments, the chance for peace and reconciliation is very high. I believe that the letter from President George W. Bush of April 2004 could be the right framework for peace between the Palestinians and us. So far you haven’t seen anything from Hamas that approaches your conditions. Since the elections, all Hamas’s announcements have been very negative, very destructive. Of course we cannot tolerate the continuation of terrorism, whether by Hamas or any other terrorist organization. And Hamas’s announcement that Israel has no right to exist prevents us from making any compromise with them. We are not ready to go back 12 years. We are not ready to start from zero. We have made thousands of kilometers of progress. The Hamas position means to go back to zero point, which is impossible. How will you continue if you are not speaking to Hamas in any way? We are ready to continue to speak, but if they say we have no right to exist, what can we discuss? If they continue with terrorism we must fight to prevent it. If they state that they are not obliged by the international commitments of the Palestinian Authority, there is no possibility of speaking with them. Because the rules of the international community are that an international commitment is an obligation. The Likud Party was against the Oslo Agreement, but when Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 1996 he immediately announced that he would adopt the Oslo Process and respect the international commitments made by the previous government. Hamas says it has not conducted any acts of terrorism lately. Is this something Israel has taken into consideration? It is not so. But it doesn’t make any difference. Its not so because Hamas are continuing; since the election there have been attempts but because of our military action we have able to prevent them. Is that so? By Hamas? By Hamas. But in any case, if Hamas says they will continue with terrorism – when? Tomorrow, next year? We are talking about peace, about a solution. We are talking about reconciliation. What is their policy? I can say that if they do not continue with terrorism there is no reason for military operations against them. So if you mean there should be a ceasefire, OK, there will be a ceasefire. But we are talking about peace, not a ceasefire. Is there a scenario where Israel can continue, unilaterally, separating the two sides and isolating Hamas? It’s an issue between the parties in the Israeli election campaign. I believe that Israel should react according to our national security. For example, with the fence. We prefer to do it in coordination with the Palestinian side, but if they say they will continue with terrorism we must keep building the fence, because it is very effective for stopping terrorism. This is unilateral. But if they say they will stop terrorism it will not be necessary to continue building the fence. Has your message been heard in Europe? The reaction of the European Union has often been very positive. Even President (Vladimir) Putin of Russia says that Hamas should change its policy. We are not pleased with President Putin’s invitation to Hamas. I would prefer that the invitation came after Hamas changes its policy. But President Putin said he would try to get Hamas to change its policy. Considering Hamas’s strong election win, do you think the Sharon government could perhaps have offered Mahmoud Abbas’s administration more rewards, something that could have shown the Palestinians were getting something from Israel? We were very helpful over the past year in our relations with Mahmoud Abbas. Military operations declined dramatically and we gave a lot of money to the Palestinian Authority and were helpful with Palestinians’ exports of agricultural products. But Hamas won because they totally controlled the mosques in Gaza, most mosques in the West Bank, because they complained about the corruption in Fatah, because their popularity rose after any bloodshed of Jews and Israelis, and not because Israel did not help Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). It was not an issue in the election campaign.