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Photo: Danny Zeidman
Dr Menachem Klein
Photo: Danny Zeidman
Talks must be renewed
Palestinian unity government indirectly accepts Quartet's conditions
A week ago Prime Minister Olmert began his weekly cabinet session by stating that he was prepared to engage in talks with Arab states based on the Saudi initiative. He also stated that Israel is not prepared to engage in talks with a Palestinian government that does not accept the conditions set down by the Quartet, including recognition of Israel's right to exist, renunciation of terror and adherence to former agreements signed with Israel.

 

Did all the Arab states, primarily Saudi Arabia, accept the Quarter's conditions? No. Has the Palestinian unity government partially or indirectly accepted the Quartet's conditions? Yes.

 

It is not only possible to engage in talks with the Palestinian national unity government - it is mandatory. This Palestinian unity government is signaling to Israel that it is prepared to engage in talks. When Hamas elected its cabinet representatives it didn't include its primary leaders, but rather, intellectuals with whom it would be easier for official Israel to enter dialogue.

 

Representatives of the Israeli government will have to coordinate common issues pertaining to the daily lives of the population with the ministers of the unity government as well as with Hamas ministers. It would be impossible to ignore Hamas ministers holding agriculture, interior, planning and education portfolios.

 

Jerusalem, Washington failed miserably

Beyond this, talks on a final-status agreement based on the Arab peace plan must be renewed. This is the only game in town. All other alternatives have failed.

 

Mahmoud Abbas was appointed to negotiate with Israel on this matter. He does not represent Fatah alone, but also the Palestinian and Arab consensus. Hamas is a partner to this consensus. Although it is not doing so openly, the organization has been given a discount on the ticket to the political train, and has boarded it.

 

Hamas made an effort to conclude the clauses of the unity government before the Arab summit in Riyadh next week, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will be there alongside Abbas in order to reaffirm the Arab peace plan.

 

Those who are thinking of driving a wedge between Abbas and Hamas are wrong. This was Jerusalem and Washington's strategic policy and it failed miserably. The time for dispute between Hamas and Fatah will come during the talks on the details of the final-status agreement.

 

Not only should the Israeli government engage the Palestinian unity government, the Israeli Left should do so as well. The Israeli Left should not suffice with talks with Abbas and Hamas alone.

 

If the Israeli government stands in its way, the Left should resume the tactics that characterized it in the 1980s, when the government legislated a bill that prohibited contact with PLO representatives. With the help of several European governments, this obstacle can also be overcome.

 

The writer is a political science lecturer at Bar Ilan University and a leading Geneva Initiative proponent

 

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