(by Benny Avni, NYSun.com) UNITED NATIONS – President Putin’s decision yesterday to invite the terrorist organization Hamas to Moscow for talks stunned Washington and Jerusalem and heightened Israeli and American concern that the world’s resolve against Hamas is eroding.

Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, warned in an interview with The New York Sun against a “slippery slope” effect that might result from a tendency by “some in the international community” to compromise with Hamas. In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said America “sought some clarification” regarding Russia’s intentions.

Before it is accepted as a partner for negotiations, Hamas needs to fully recognize Israel, disarm, renounce terrorism, and accept prior agreements reached by the Palestinian Authority, according to statements by the U.N. Security Council and the so-called Quartet – Russia, America, the European Union, and the United Nations. Although Hamas leaders have yet to publicly or privately accept any of those conditions, Mr. Putin said yesterday he would invite Hamas leaders for talks.

“We need to recognize that Hamas has come to power as a result of a legitimate election, and we need to respect the will of the Palestinian people,” Mr. Putin said at a Madrid, Spain, press conference after meeting Prime Minister Zapatero. “To burn bridges would be the simplest action, but it lacks perspective.”

Russia and some Europeans fear that ending outside support for the Palestinian Authority, which receives most of its funding from donors, would lead to its collapse after Hamas takes over. “Funding is okay for this month,” the quartet’s representative, James Wolfensohn, said yesterday in Ramallah, adding that the quartet is trying to assure that the Palestinian Authority will remain funded in the future as well.

Israel was “blindsided” by the Russian announcement, a Jerusalem official told the Sun, as was the Bush administration. In a Washington briefing, the assistant secretary of state for the Near East, David Welch, told reporters that Russia should abide by all the quartet’s agreements.

“Any weakness” the world displays toward Hamas, “will result in a negative effect – not only for Israel, but also for the Palestinian people and for the international community,” Ms. Livni told the Sun yesterday after meetings in New York with Secretary-General Annan, the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council, and separately with the American U.N. ambassador, John Bolton.

After last month’s Hamas election victory, she noted, the Security Council and the quartet, including Russia, demanded that the group “go through a series of adjustments, so that it could be accepted by the international community, and so that the Palestinian Authority can continue to be legitimate.” Since then, “we have been working to prevent a slippery slope” in that stance, she added.

“There is a tendency sometimes among some in the international community to try and understand, to reach agreements, to take a backward step,” Ms. Livni warned. In the case of Hamas, this “will serve to achieve exactly the opposite” of the quartet’s and the council’s declared goals, she said.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Andrey Denisov, said yesterday that Hamas has to be dealt with. “We have to work with it,” he told the Sun during a press conference at the Russian mission. “We have to start the process. Who else can do it?” He added that in the past, Russia has not dealt with Hamas, but unlike Israel, America, and the European Union, Moscow has never defined the group as a terrorist organization. “We tried to keep the door open,” he said.

Mr. Annan also urged patience toward Hamas yesterday. “Hamas won the elections but they have never been in government; they need time to organize themselves,” he told Turtle Bay reporters. “I hope that in the end they will heed the quartet statement, urging them to honor all the obligations entered into by the Palestinian Authority, transform themselves into a political party, and accept the two-state solution,” he said.

In the meeting with Ms. Livni, Mr. Annan raised his concerns about recent escalation in Israeli targeted killings of terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank, which he publicly criticized earlier this week. Ms. Livni vowed Israel will continue to protect its citizens “in any way we know,” and target anyone on the way to “the next terror attack.”

Israel expects the world will see “the difference between an Israeli soldier attempting to prevent an attack and the terrorist who is targeting children in their crib, youth in the disco, or families at a restaurant,” Ms. Livni said. “This distinction has clear ramifications, both legally and morally.”

On another issue, Mr. Annan said yesterday that the cartoons that have offended the Arab and Islamic world should not be republished. “I do not understand why any newspaper will publish the cartoons today,” he said. “It is insensitive, it is offensive, it is provocative.” Freedom of speech or press freedoms, he said, “entail exercising responsibility and judgment, and quite honestly I cannot understand why any editor will publish cartoons at this time which inflames and pours oil on the fire.”

In his press conference, Mr. Denisov said that similar restraint must be exercised regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Articles in the press and “discussions on how to bomb Iran are unconstructive,” he said, adding that it is “very dangerous” to publish stories that describe various military options in the world’s effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.


1.  What is Hamas?

2.  List the groups that make up the Quartet.  What four conditions does the Quartet require from Hamas to begin negotiations?

3.  What reason does President Putin give for reaching out to Hamas?  What does Russia’s UN Ambassador say about Hamas?

4.  Why is Mr. Putin’s invitation wrong? 

5.  What do some fear would happen if Palestine’s outside aid was ended?

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