Israeli PM takes Hamas fight to Europe

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to convince his British counterpart David Cameron Wednesday that a deal between the two Palestinian factions would be disastrous for Middle East peace.

As Israel tries to fight off UN recognition of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu is to meet Cameron on Wednesday evening and on Thursday will fly to Paris to present his case to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Netanyahu is fiercely opposed to the militant Islamist Hamas movement having any role in a caretaker Palestinian government being formed by Palestinian Fatah president Mahmud Abbas.

The rapprochement has already been welcomed, albeit cautiously, by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, although Hague later criticised Hamas for mourning the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Before travelling to Britain on Tuesday Netanyahu told Britain's former premier Tony Blair that Abbas must "completely cancel" the agreement which seeks to end years of bad blood between Abbas' Fatah movement and its Hamas rivals.

"The agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is a hard blow to the peace process," Netanayhu told Blair, the Middle East envoy for the diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.

"How is it possible to achieve peace with a government, half of which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and even praises the arch-murderer Osama Bin Laden," Netnyahu said.

A statement from Netanyahu's office said he "will make similar remarks during his meetings in London and Paris with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy."

Hamas's reference to bin Laden as "a holy warrior" on Tuesday sparked a sharp response from London as well as from the US State Department, which described the Islamists' response as "outrageous."

Even so, Netanyahu looks set to face a sceptical audience in both London and Paris, with Sarkozy giving the clearest indication yet that France may recognise an independent Palestinian state if peace talks do not resume soon.

"If the peace process is still dead in September, France will face up to its responsibilities on the central question of recognition of a Palestinian state," he said in an interview with L'Express magazine.

Netanyahu wants European leaders to oppose, or at least abstain, if the Palestinians seek United Nations recognition of a unilateral declaration of statehood when the body's General Assembly convenes in September.

Analysts expect Cameron and Sarkozy to listen politely to his arguments but reserve immediate judgement.

Netanyahu has said he will outline a new political initiative when he addresses a joint session of the US Congress in May, but so far he has kept his cards close to his chest.

Israel and the United States oppose a unilateral statehood bid, saying a Palestinian state can only be achieved through negotiation.

But Britain and France see things differently, with their UN envoys indicating last month they may back the Palestinian campaign as a way to relaunch the peace process.

© 2011 AFP

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