Exclusive: Jerusalem reproves Paris for talking to Hamas – amid its own indirect contacts

debkafile‘s Middle East sources point to disturbing policy contradictions in Israel’s handling of the Palestinian Hamas. Ahead of French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner’s arrival Tuesday, May 20, Jerusalem asked France to clarify the contacts made by an emissary with Hamas officials as part of an effort requested by the family to help free the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.
At the same time, prime minister Ehud Olmert has approved indirect Gaza truce negotiations via Cairo with the Palestinian fundamentalists, who are sworn to destroy the Jewish state and are building up strength for this very goal. The go-ahead was conveyed by Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and intelligence minister Omar Suleiman when they met in Sharm el-Sheikh Monday, May 19.
Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak further consented to Cairo accompanying the ceasefire with progress on its initiative for patching up the feud between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. It was agreed that if the truce held, it would be the key to Hamas-Fatah talks maturing up to the goal of a shared Palestinian government. The Cairo formula would assign ministerial portfolios to a-political technocrats.
Abbas’ condition for going along with the plan is the handover to his presidential guard of responsibility for the reopened Rafah border crossing to Sinai and the southern part of the divided Rafah border town.
Hamas is inclined to buy the plan to attain two immediate objectives:
1. A Palestinian power-sharing regime will free the terrorist rulers of Gaza of responsibility for providing the population’s food, water, fuel and medical care needs. It will pass to the shared government without threatening Hamas’ grip on the Gaza Strip.
2. Hamas will gain a respite to focus fully on its main mission, which is to build an army comparable in size and weaponry to the Lebanese Hizballah’s 40,000-strong militia. In an interview Saturday, May 17, outgoing Israeli Air Force commander, Lt. Gen (res.) Eliezer Shkedi likened Hamas’ missile stockpile to that of Hizballah, stressing it was still growing.
debkafile‘s Israel military sources warn therefore that the evolving truce regime will not only lead to the end of Hamas’ isolation and Israel-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, but give its war planners a shot in the arm, space for building up its war machine and time to top up its seizure of Gaza by gaining control of the West Bank.

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