European support for Hamas weakens peace chances, Israel warns

Israel Materials 21 February 2008 17:38 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - European support for the Islamic Hamas movement weakens the chances for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday.

"Europe must internalize that Hamas is not a group which is interested in founding a state," she said while meeting her Romanian counterpart Adrian Cioroianu in Tel Aviv.

She said Hamas, which rejects Israel's existence in favour of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, "does not want rights for the Palestinians, but instead wants to take rights away from others."

Hamas, which won power in the 2006 Palestinian elections, is currently undergoing a Western diplomatic and economic boycott because of its refusal to renounce violence, accept Israel's right to exist, and honour previous Palestinian peace agreements.

The group is also at odds with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, after Hamas routed forces loyal to the Palestinian leader in the Gaza Strip last June and seized security control of the salient.

Abbas reacted by dismissing the Hamas-led unity government and appointing another, as yet unratified one, in its place, with whom Israel is currently conducting peace negotiations.

But a report in the Ha'aretz daily Thursday said Israel was concerned Europe could change its policy toward Hamas, due to the crisis in the Gaza Strip, which is under a tight Israeli siege.

Israel first placed the Strip under siege in June 2006, after an Israeli soldier was snatched by militants in a cross-border raid launched from the salient, tightened the siege after the Hamas takeover in June 2007.

The siege was tightened even further after a surge in rocket attacks from the enclave on adjacent Israeli towns and villages.

Although Israeli officials say they will not let a humanitarian crisis develop, international observers warn this could happen.

"Every indirect support Hamas receives, even if it's in the form of discussing the border crossing or the humanitarian situation, weakens those who are interested in a final settlement," Livni said.