Legitimizing Hamas…

See the article below from February 2006 about how France was supporting Russia’s move to meet with Hamas.  That was then; Sarkozy is now (thank God).  Still, this reminds us that a divided, wishy-washy Western response to the Hamas challenge recalls the handling of the Spanish Civil War in the thirties, when the Western powers dithered and failed to support the Spanish Republicans against Franco (even imposing an arms embargo on all parties), while the Nazis and fascists armed and supported Franco (even sending the Luftwaffe to bomb Spanish cities).  Guess who won?  Franco.  Guess who got to test the mettle of the Western powers ahead of world war?  The Nazis.  As the West goes down the slippery slope toward legitimizing Hamas, this sends a message to Islamist extremists and Iran that there is no will in the civilized world to stand up to their plans to gain power, to confront the West (with Iran as a nuclear-armed power) and to seek the destruction of Israel. 

From Haaretz February 2006:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won assurances from Russia on Friday that Moscow would send a firm message to Hamas that the militant group must change if it wants world support, the State Department said.Earlier, France dealt a fresh blow to Israeli and U.S. efforts to isolate Hamas when it expressed support for the Russian initiative, reiterating however that the it must renounce violence and recognize Israel.Rice telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday to discuss Moscow’s surprise plans to invite Palestinian election winner Hamas for talks, a move that irked Washington and was not discussed when Rice met Lavrov in London last week.

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“We have been assured that should the Russian government meet with Hamas, that they would send that — that the meeting would be with the intent of sending that clear, strong message,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.The United States classifies Hamas as a terrorist body and has ruled out any direct contact until the militant group renounces violence, disarms militants and recognizes Israel.French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said Russia did not consult its international partners about its initiative. But “we believe that it is an initiative that can contribute to advancing our positions,” he added.“We share with Russia the goal of leading Hamas toward positions that would allow for the goal of two states living in peace and security to be reached,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday invited leaders of Hamas, the militant group responsible for dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, to visit Moscow. A Hamas leader quickly accepted the invitation.

To read an analysis of Putin’s statements on Hamas, click here.

Putin’s announcement contradicts a statement issued two weeks ago by the Mideast Quartet, to which Russia belongs, which said a two-state solution requires all participants in the democratic process “to renounce violence and terror, accept Israel’s right to exist, and disarm.” The other Quartet members are the United States, United Nations and European Union.

Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Hamas leaders would visit Russia if they receive an official invitation.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was attending a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Sicily on Friday, said that while Moscow is critical of Hamas’ ideology just as other nations, it considers it practical to maintain contacts with the group.

“Hamas is in power, this is a fact,” Ivanov said. “Sometime in the future, many leading states will start maintaining some contacts with Hamas.”

Ivanov was expected to meet with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on the sidelines of the NATO meeting.

Minister Meir Sheetrit on Friday accused Putin of “stabbing Israel in the back” for saying he planned to invite Hamas leaders to visit, and said Moscow should not play any role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Russia “cannot fill any position regarding negotiations with the Palestinians” unless it changes its position on Hamas, Sheetrit told Israel Radio.

But Sheetrit, a Kadima member, said no such invitation should be forthcoming until Hamas renounces its charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction. Sheetrit also recalled Russia’s support of the Arab bloc during the Cold War, saying Putin’s comments show that “Russia is returning to the mistakes of the past.”

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer Friday told Haaretz that the organization will not hold talks with Hamas.

Scheffer, currently in Sicily for a meeting of NATO’s defense ministers, said that there will be no contact with Hamas even if Hamas leads the Palestinian Authority government, which NATO opened contacts with last year.

“It’s an absolute impossibility to have any kind of dealing with Hamas by NATO,” de Hoop Scheffer said. “Contact with Hamas is out of the question.”

Avigdor Lieberman, of the far-right National Union party, warned Friday that Russia could be opening the door to further legitimization of Hamas.

“Legitimization from one of the important players in the Quartet will pave the way for others, for those who don’t exactly love us, to cooperate closely with Hamas,” said Lieberman.

Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin said Israel should not negotiate with Hamas unless it recognizes Israel and refrains from terror, but suggested that Israel focus on deciding its own policy rather than “chasing after” other countries and monitoring their relations with Hamas.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, meanwhile, is slated to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt on Tuesday to discuss the outcome of Hamas’ victory in last month’s Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Putin expressed his intention to host Hamas leaders at a press conference in Madrid on Thursday.

“Having maintained our contacts with the organization Hamas, we intend to invite their leaders to Moscow in the near future to search for solutions,” Putin said.

“We have never considered Hamas a terrorist organization,” said the Russian leader. “Hamas came to power … as a result of democratic, legitimate elections, and we must respect the choice of the Palestinian people.”

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who met in New York on Thursday with the UN ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members, urged them to stand fast on the four conditions that the council – again including Russia – had previously set for recognition of Hamas: recognition of Israel, disarmament, abandoning terror and accepting the road map peace plan.

“Every sign of weakness and of recognition will be interpreted by Hamas as legitimizing terror,” she said. “It’s important that the international community insist on the fulfillment of these conditions.”

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