Israel’s top soldier sends ambiguous hint to Hamas which presents first cabinet to Palestinian legislative council
Lt-Gen. Dan Halutz Monday, March 27, referred to a statement by the designated Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, in which he said Hamas wanted an end to the Middle East conflict and did not seek more blood-letting – only Palestinian rights. The Israeli general suggested that these words could be a sign that Hamas is ready to abandon terrorism and embrace the path of diplomatic negotiation, but at the moment any such intention is confined to words not deeds.
A short time later, Haniya in presenting his cabinet list and program to the Palestinian Legislative Council for approval, said: “Our government will be prepared to hold dialogue with the international quartet about ways to end the conflict and install calm in the region.”
He promised to protect the Palestinians’ right “to continue their struggle until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.” The Hamas prime minister went on: “Our government will spare no effort to reach a just peace in the region, putting an end to the occupation and restoring our rights.”
debkafile adds: It is highly unlikely that Israel’s chief of staff ad libbed at the pivotal moment just before the Hamas government’s presentation to parliament, the day before Israel’s general election and on the eve of the Arab League summit at Khartoum which was marked by a strenuous US drive to block Hamas influence.
It is possible that acting prime minister Ehud Olmert, who made tough speeches about Hamas for the benefit for the Israeli voter before the election, may have wanted to broadcast a less negative message to Hamas with an eye on post-election diplomacy, in the expectation of a victory at the polls. This signal he may have routed through the non-elective general.
Later Monday, Washington rejected Haniya’s proposal of dialogue with the international quartet. Two senior US emissaries are due in the Middle East Thursday to examine the implications of the change of Israeli and Palestinian governments both occurring this week.