Gov't Minister: Israel is Negotiating With Hamas

Israel is holding direct talks with "Hamastan," Chaim Ramon said. The same day, Israel requested clarification from France over just such contacts.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Minister Chaim Ramon
Minister Chaim Ramon
Photo: file

Israel is holding direct negotiations with Hamas, despite a government policy prohibiting such talks, Vice Prime Minister Chaim Ramon said Monday. The same day, Foreign Ministry officials requested clarification of the French position on contacts with the Palestinian Authority Islamist terror organization.

Speaking at a meeting of the Kadima party's Knesset faction, Ramon expressed frustration at the government's contacts with Hamas and said he hoped that the decision to eliminate the terrorist entity would soon be made.
[Ramon said] he hoped that the decision to eliminate the terrorist entity would soon be made.

"The IDF knows what to do," Minister Ramon said. "We are not fighting a terrorist group, but a terrorist state called Hamastan."

According to a government resolution, Israel is not to make direct contact with Hamas until it recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and agrees to abide by agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Until Monday, government officials claimed that all negotiations with Hamas were being conducted via Egyptian mediators.

In reaction to Ramon's admission, Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), said Monday that direct talks with Hamas "will bring [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal in through the front door of the White House." The talks will give Mashaal legitimacy, as happened with former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, he explained.

"Terrorist groups should be dismantled, not strengthened," Lieberman said.

Israel Questions France Over Hamas Contacts
With ironic timing, while Minister Ramon was revealing Israeli contacts with Hamas, the Foreign Ministry demanded that senior French officials explain their statement that the French government has "contacts" but not "relations" with the PA Islamist organization.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Merkel said that the French government has assured Israel that there is no change in the position of France regarding relations with Hamas. In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters questioning him about France's contacts, "We don't believe it is helpful to the process of bringing peace to the region."

Egypt: Israel Dropped Demand for Release of Cpl. Shalit
Leaks from the Egyptian brokering of contacts between Israel and Hamas continue.

Egyptian officials have asserted that Israel will agree to a version of a ceasefire in Gaza without demanding the immediate release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas. However, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said earlier this week that there will be no deal without advancing the return of the soldier, who was abducted almost two years ago in a cross-border raid that killed two other soldiers.

Unnamed Egyptian sources were quoted as saying that Israel will settle for a renewal of talks involving the release of Arab terrorists in return for Shalit.