Concerned about the ongoing dialogue between American and European Union diplomats and Hamas, Israel is pressing to ban the participation of the Islamic movement in legislative Palestinian Authority elections.
According to an Israeli official source, the issue of Hamas’ participation in the elections and the American talks with the organization will be raised in the slated for Sunday meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to arrive in Israel on Saturday.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a senior source in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Bureau as saying that AbbasÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to postpone the elections, which were scheduled for July 17, came as a result, among other things, of Israel’s reservations.
The same source also said that the U.S. has promised Israel to refrain from official talks with Hamas until it renounces armed struggle and agrees to abide by legal constraints.
Israel has recently stepped up diplomatic efforts to encounter attempts by the PA to integrate Hamas in the Palestinian political establishment, especially as some EU and American diplomats seems to be supportive to the idea, and have already started talks with representatives of Hamas.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during his visit to Israel this week that banning Hamas is the act of ‘a defensive democracy.’
In a recent meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Yahad Party chair Yossi Beilin demanded that Hamas be banned from participating in the PA legislative elections if it fails to meet the terms of the Oslo II Accords and changes its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel.
Rice will meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday. PA security reforms and coordinating the pullout with Israel are expected to top the meeting agenda.
Rice will try to assist in resolving several disengagement matters that remain ‘open’ or controversial: Control over the Rafah border crossing; opening the airport in Dahaniya; the customs treaty; the fate of evacuated settlers’ homes; passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; and the status of the settlement areas to be evacuated in the northern West Bank.
American and Israel sources expect that Rice would focus on the disengagement plan, and would refrain from raising controversial issue, such as settlement expansion and the dismantling of settlersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ unauthorized outposts.
Sharon is scheduled to meet Abbas on Tuesday, two days after meeting Rice.