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Israel stymies French push to lift European boycott of Hamas
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Israele continua ad affamare Gaza... con l’aiuto dell’Italia

Using intense diplomatic pressure over the past two days, Israeli officials blocked a French attempt to weaken Jerusalem's stance with Hamas at the pre-written closing statement of the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels last night.

France wanted the statement to say that the European Union would be prepared to hold talks with a future Palestinian unity government that agreed to honor the principles of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In addition, the French delegation to Brussels proposed striking from the statement an article calling for reopening the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the 2005 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Instead France offered an ambiguous formulation that would make it possible to open the crossings without conditioning such a measure on the presence of representatives of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the past two days Israeli officials conducted a frenetic diplomatic battle to torpedo the unwanted changes, applying significant pressure on senior EU representatives. The Czech Republic, the current holder of the EU presidency, together with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, worked together to push the French initiative off the agenda.

Jerusalem views the French move as an attempt to get the Quartet for Middle East peace - the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the EU - to soften its conditions for international recognition of Hamas. A senior Israeli official said Monday that since the end of the Gaza operation, Jerusalem fears a break in European support for the boycott of the Hamas government in Gaza.

Israeli diplomats in Europe have been reporting a new willingness in various European capitals to reevaluate international policy toward Gaza as well as the Quartet's conditions for recognizing Hamas since the end of Operation Cast Lead. The latter includes abandoning terror, recognizing Israel and recognizing previous agreements between Israel and the PA.

Israeli officials are particular perturbed about recent comments by French diplomats, in off-the-record meetings, which claim Hamas cannot be ignored.

"We cannot return to the status quo that existed in Gaza before the Israel Defense Forces operation, and we must come up with creative solutions," one diplomat said.

According to a senior source in Jerusalem, there has been a recent French effort to change the Quartet's terms for recognizing Hamas. French diplomats have told their European colleagues, as well as Israel, that a Palestinian unity government including Hamas cannot be ruled out, pointing to Hezbollah's participation in Lebanon's government as an example.

"If the paralysis in the peace process and in the rehabilitation of Gaza continues, the efforts to soften the Quartet conditions will persevere," an Israeli official said. "It's uncertain that the boycott of Hamas will continue for much longer, especially if a Palestinian unity government is formed."

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Source >  Haaretz

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