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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: 'Israel Calls On International Community Not To Be Duped By Palestinian Unity Government'

'Israel Will Not Deal With Hamas Lead Government But Will Talk To President Mahmoud Abbas On Limited Issues'

Dr. Dan Schueftan: 'Palestinian Unity Government Is Attempt To Dress Up Hamas As Legitimate Partner'

Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh (Hamas)

The Israeli government has voted overwhelmingly to boycott the new Palestinian unity government. At its weekly cabinet session, 19 ministers voted against conducting a dialogue with the Hamas-lead cabinet. Only two ministers abstained in the vote. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called on the international community to maintain its boycott of the Palestinian government until it accepts conditions set up the international Quartet; they call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel, halt terrorism and implement former agreements. In an interview with IsraCast, Dr. Dan Schueftan said the Palestinian unity government is a ploy to dress up Hamas as a legitimate partner while the terror organization continues to plot the destruction of Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called on the international community not to be deceived by the new Palestinian unity government. Olmert expected it to continue isolating the Palestinian government which does not comply with the conditions set by the international Quartet. These include recognizing Israel, halting the terrorism and implementing former agreements. Although Olmert would continue his contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud, their dialogue would now be  ' restricted '. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu sharply criticized Olmert's handling of the Palestinian unity government charging that Olmert ' stammers ' instead of acting of acting decisively to expose the Palestinian ruse. Netanyahu charged that this has caused cracks to appear in the international boycott of the Palestinian terrorist leadership.   

The new Palestinian unity government is a transparent attempt to 'dress up' Hamas as a legitimate partner in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. That's the reaction of Dr. Dan Schueftan a Middle East analyst at Haifa University. However, Hamas, which has gained the confidence of the Palestinian people was still bent on destroying Israel. Schueftan notes that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke openly in his inaugural address about the so- called right of the Palestinians to return to their homes in Israel. Obviously, the influx of several million Palestinians inside Israel proper would spell the end of the Jewish state. Haniyeh also declared that he would not take action against the Palestinian 'resistance'; this is the code word for terrorism. In addition, the unity government even refused to recognize Israel which is another condition set by the international 'Quartet' comprised of the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia.

So, while the Hamas PM literally calls the shots, the unity government's President Mahmoud Abbas appears as the front man talking peace and rejecting terrorism. But as Dr. Schueftan notes the Fatah organization headed by Abbas continues to participate in terrorism through the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This latest Palestinian gambit is a move to break the international boycott of Hamas, a recognized terror organization that is actively supported by Iran. What chance is there that it will succeed? The Israeli government has declared that it is not falling for the 'good guy- bad guy' routine even if some European countries are ready to resume contact with the Hamas government. Meanwhile, hundreds of Hamas terrorists are being trained in Iran and large quantities of explosives and weapons are being smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egyptian controlled Sinai. Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin has said the Egyptians have recently stepped up their operation to halt the smuggling; if it did not succeed Israel might be forced to act in order to prevent the Gaza Strip from turning into another souther Lebanon with a dangerous terror infrastructure. 

Footnote: Within twenty-four hours of the national unity government taking office , another Qassam rocket was firing from Gaza into Israel.

Interview with Dr. Dan Schueftan  

  Q :      We are speaking now with Dr. Dan Schueftan, a leading Middle East expert inIsrael . He teaches at Haifa University. First of all, Dr. Schueftan, what is your take on this new national unity Palestinian government?

A:       Well, it is the same old thing, the same old repulsive and unacceptable thing. Basically what we are getting is the Hamas, dressed up as if they can seriously discuss with us. But even Abu Mazen can not seriously discuss with us, because what he wants is a discussion of the permanent settlement, and he is still focused on a concept of settlement that includes the right of return. Even Abu Mazen, even the so called moderate, can do nothing whatsoever about terrorism, does not even seriously try to do something about terrorism. His own organization, the Fatah, is committed to terrorism through the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He himself can not even accept the notion that a Jewish nation state will exist alongside the Palestinian state. So all he can do from his side, before he even should use the Hamas, is make demands on Israelto weaken its position, so it is later so weak that it can not defend itself anymore. You must be crazy as an Israeli to even contemplate discussing it with him, let alone with the Hamas, that had the confidence of the Palestinian people. This is an anti-Semitic organization in the worst Nazi sense of the term, which still speaks officially about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They speak about the destruction of the state of Israel . Ismail Haniyeh, when he presented his government yesterday, spoke about the return of the refugees to their homes, i.e. inside Israel . I don't think there is any amount of lunacy anywhere in Israelthat would seriously consider this a partner for negotiations. Arafat at least pretended to accept Israel . Arafat at least pretended to do something about terrorism. Arafat at least pretended that he is seeking a permanent solution. The pretence was not very good, but at least it was there. These people do not even pretend. They are askingIsrael to cheat itself, and I don't think any government in Israelwould be viable if it negotiates with these people.

Q:       The Israeli approach seems to be that we will talk to the President, Mahmoud Abbas, but not with any representatives of this new Palestinian unity government. But this "good guy, bad guy" approach, that the Palestinians, as you put it, are dressing up this new national unity government in, seems to be working with the Europeans. Several European countries have said that they will deal with the new Palestinian government.

A:       First of all, it's not "good guy, bad guy", it's "bad guy, worse guy". Second, the Europeans will probably capitulate. After all, they have a reputation to uphold. This is what they are doing everywhere, all the time. So it is possible that they will accept negotiations with this government. The problem is not negotiating, because even the so called "good guys" don't want to negotiate the serious business of terminating terrorism. They don't want to negotiate on the only platform thatIsrael, the United States , the Palestinians themselves, the Arab states and the international community has agreed about, namely the road map. So again, it is not even a remote possibility. AndEuropehas a record of supporting something, and then, when it turns out that the Arabs reject it, to say "Well, it doesn't work, let's make more concessions to the Arabs".

Q:       You are referring to the Quartet's conditions for recognizing the Palestinians and negotiations?

A:       The Quartet's conditions were ok, but now the Europeans let themselves be cheated by the Hamas into believing that they have anything that is in any way different from Hamas.

Q:       What about the U.S., which is under immense pressure now to find some kind of exit strategy from Iraq, and is seeking the Arab world's support, even Iran and Syria. MightIsrael be left isolated by the U.S.in this confrontation with the Palestinians?

A:       I don't think so. This would be very a short sighted American policy. The only thing the Americans may do is ask Israelto make some diplomatic concessions, so that it is easier for the Americans to shut the Europeans up. In other words, I don't think that theUnited States will pressure Israelinto a major policy shift, and I don't think that the Americans expect that such pressure can be fruitful. Even if this creates tension betweenIsrael and theUnited States - and I don't think it will, but even if it does - creating tensions, even with theUnited States, is better than starting something that will end in Israelbeing completely unable to defend itself.

Q:       We have been speaking about the political aspects of the confrontation, but last week we heard from Yuval Diskin, the Head of the Shabak Security Service, that the Palestinians are building concrete fortresses in the Gaza Strip, they are continuing to smuggle in tones of explosives - they are getting ready for war. How does Israelreact to that? Can Israelcondone that?

Dr. Dan Schueftan

Dr. Dan Schueftan is a senior Israeli academic and deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, where he also serves as a senior lecturer in the School of Political Sciences. Schueftan has served as an advisor to Israel's National Security Council, and to former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon.

A:       Don't forget that they are sending hundreds of their people to Iranto be trained by the Iranians. This is even more dangerous than the other thing that you have mentioned. I think the timing would not be good forIsrael to take military initiative immediately now, but I think that on the Israeli side it is clear that sooner or later Israelwill have to do it.Israel will have to do it when it can get a good understanding with the United Statesthat there is no other option. It will be an Israeli decision, but it will probably take at least a feeling by the Israeli leadership that the United States understands that Israel must do it, because when we do it, we will again have the Europeans at least not supporting, and perhaps even very seriously opposing it, and we will crucially need the American support against people who will want to force on Israel something that is dangerous to its very basic security needs.

Q:       Finally, Dr. Schueftan, there are those in Israel who are saying that "all right, let's try and work out some kind of a deal, and if the international financial aid is resumed to the Palestinians, maybe this will impress upon the Palestinian people that they have to choose the diplomatic route and give up the option of terrorism"?

A:          I don't know of anybody in Israelwith half a sense that would say it. We have very strange people in Israel ; every country has them, but anybody of any significance who would say it would immediately lose his significance, because this is so dumb that nobody can seriously consider it.

Transcript by Dar Translations
972-2-6414722 | dar_doc@smile.net.il

David Essing

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