Ramon: Negotiations with Hamas defy government policy
Vice premier first Israeli official to Israel holding direct talks with Hamas on ceasefire, Shalit, says negotiations in violation of policy stating that Islamist group must first recognize Israel, renounce terror. 'We are not fighting a terror organization, but rather the terror state of Hamastan,' he says
Israel officially admitted to holding talks with Hamas for the first time on Monday, with Vice Premier Haim Ramon saying that "the negations we are conducting with Hamas are in direct defiance of the government's resolution, according to which Israel would agree to talk to the Islamist group only after it accepts the conditions set by the Quartet."
The Quartet - US, Russia, EU and the UN – demands that Hamas recognize Israel, renounce violence and ratify past agreements and the road Map.
Up until now the cabinet claimed that the talks on a possible ceasefire and on the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit have all been conducted with Egyptian mediation so as not to breach the 'political siege' imposed on Ismail Haniyeh's government, since Hamas' violent takeover of the Strip in July 2007.
'Between tragedies and miracles'
Speaking at a Kadima faction meeting that focused on the situation in Gaza on the eve of a visit by Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to the country, Ramon said he opposed the policy employed by the so-called Kitchen Cabinet, which consists of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, which has conditioned Israel's agreement to a ceasefire on Shalit's return.
"In the discussions on Shalit's release, I represent the moderate position. The issue of the kidnapped soldier is a humanitarian one, and we are willing to pay a heavy price in order to resolve it but it should not be linked to the war on terror; it has nothing to do with the terror campaign that is being waged against from Gaza.
"People must realize that we are not fighting a terror organization, but rather the terror state of Hamastan," he added. "We cannot accept the existence of such a country along our southern border, just as Egypt does not accept this country on its northern border."
Ramon continued to say that "radical Islam's victory parade in Gaza must be stopped. I hope that next week we will reach a strategic decision stating that we refuse to accept Hamas state on our southern border. In such an event, the IDF will know what to do.
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter told the Kadima faction meeting that the resident's of Israel's southern region are living "between tragedies and miracles", adding that even those who travel south avoid the Gaza-vicinity area for fear of rocket attacks.