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Yes, I mean no

Posted by Helen Thursday, April 06, 2006

Javier Solana may yet crack down on whoever was President Chirac’s emissary to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government. For the moment he is content with making statements to the European Parliament that can be interpreted in many different ways.

According to Reuter’s, possibly the fullest account, the Common Foreign Policy High Panjandrum said that on the one hand, Hamas as it is now cannot be regarded “as an appropriate speaking partner”. It had to change.

“Hamas can't change its past, but it can and should change its future.”
In other words, it should eschew terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist, something the Hamas leadership has already refused to do.

Nothing daunted, Señor Solana told MEPs that Hamas had to be given the chance to change but he did not precisely explain whether the organization was likely to take that chance and what would happen if it did not. He did, however, add:
“We have to give them (Hamas) the opportunity, but we have to be very tough until the moment they change. We have to create the conditions.”
On the other hand, the European Union did not want the new Palestinian government to fail. Some would argue that its inability to impose any kind of order in Gaza, prevent Qassam (and one Katyusha) attacks on Israel, as well as a complete inability to think of ways of ever earning any money except by endless aid that is to be given out in salaries to PA employees, would indicate a certain tendency to failure. But we must look to the future.

The statement about not wanting the Palestinian government to fail (reasonable enough) was picked up by the Islamic Republic News Agency of Iran, which, unaccountably forgot to mention that Solana had also called on Hamas to change.

It did remember to tell its readers that the EU, according to Solana, did not want to see unilateral decisions on the part of Israel, though it did think that Israel should withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. It appears to be bad form to refer to the events that had led to Israel expanding beyond those borders. Something to do with a war and a joint attack mounted by Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as I recall.

The problem is that Hamas does not want Israel to go back to its pre-1967 borders. It wants Israel to disappear and a Palestinian state (one that has never existed in history, incidentally) established “from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean”.

As envisaged by Hamas, all people in that state Muslims, Jews (those who survive) and Christians (already seriously persecuted) will live under Sharia law. Nothing else will do and they are not prepared to negotiate for anything else.

The big question is, therefore, whether Israel will be prepared to wait for that glacial change that Solana is pleading for or will it decide to create settled borders unilaterally. Not having them acknowledged by the “international community” is unlikely to frighten the Israelis. They know what they can expect from the “international community”.

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