Tuesday, February 20, 2007

israel severes Abbas if he joins new government

Israel threatens to stop dealing with Abbas
AP Feb21 GulfNews

Amman: Israel said yesterday it would stop dealing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if he goes ahead with plans to join Hamas in a new government, as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Arab allies sought a way to break the Hamas logjam and push forward the stalled peace process.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, after separate meetings with Rice and Abbas, urged the United States to continue seeking to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. But Israel said it would stop dealing with Abbas on larger peace issues if he went ahead and formed the coalition government with Hamas.

Difficult meetings

After the meetings, Abbas acknowledged for the first time that sessions on Monday in occupied Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Rice had been "tense and difficult" but said "it was not a failure and it will be followed by other meetings".

Abbas said Israel may have "misunderstood" the agreement reached in Makkah between his moderate Fatah faction and the militant Hamas group, according to Jordan's official Petra news agency.

"We told Israel that this agreement was made to protect the unity of the Palestinian people and its national interests," Abbas was quoted as saying.

"The agreement is an expression of support for Palestinian interests, but Israel may have misunderstood it." But in Israel, Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Olmert, ruled out any talks on a final peace deal with Abbas if he went ahead with plans to form a new Cabinet including Hamas.

Final status issues

Israeli talks with Abbas would be limited to matters such as improving living conditions for the Palestinians and ending Palestinian attacks against Israel. "We're not talking about negotiations on final status issues," Eisin said.

The planned Palestinian coalition government fell far short of what the United States and Israel wanted, and also disappointed Sunni Arab states - many of them US allies - that had hoped Hamas would soften anti-Israeli policies enough to satisfy the West and restart the flow of vital international aid.

Rice invited security and intelligence chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE to Amman for the talks to ask their advice on what, if anything, can be done further to persuade Hamas to back down.

Yesterday's session at the government security headquarters in Amman included some of the region's wiliest and best-connected heavies, fixers and go-betweens, including Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar Bin Sultan and Egyptian intelligence head Omar Sulaiman.

Sulaiman has deep ties across Palestinian politics, including with Hamas. Rice has been meeting with him regularly since Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections 13 months ago.