Sunday, October 29, 2006

Israeli minister cancels Qatar trip

Some might say that this rather pathetic item shows how reluctant Israel is to have even the semblance of peace with the Arab World:

Reuters - 29 October, 2006
Israeli Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni has cancelled plans to attend a U.N. meeting in Qatar because of the expected presence of legislators from the Islamist militant group Hamas, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.

Israel has low-level ties with Qatar, and Livni's invitation to a United Nations convention on democracy would have been the first visit by a leading Israeli government minister to the Gulf state in a decade.

For full report click here

4 comments:

Davis said...

Some might say? Is this Fox News, where 'according to some, the Iraq war is going excellent'...?

I had not seen your post, and had posted the same story from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6095846.stm - which I subsequently removed). In this report it is made clear that 'The ministry said it had instead sent its deputy director for Middle East affairs, Yacov Hadas, to the conference.'

It is sometimes forgotten, in the atmosphere of peace and reconciliation that pervades Vincent Square, that despite all wilful application of optimism, Hamas remains a nasty terrorist - yes, terrorist - organisation, committed to the destruction of Israel and antisemitic in both the classic (religious) sense and the more recent morphing of old canards (Jews rule the US) sense. It is engaged in a zero sum game that even you - the Middle East diplomatic scene's great optimist - have come back from in exasperation. And before 'some' offer explanations focussing on 'elements' - that may well be, but the nasty elements far outnumber any 'benign' ones as far as Hamas goes.

Israel's policy of isolating Hamas therefore, of which this move is part, is understandable in light of the history of the conflict between the two. One can argue about its effectiveness - as Neil Partrick and Jonathan Paris (kind of) did at the last meeting, but to use this story to 'show[s] how reluctant Israel is to have even the semblance of peace with the Arab World' is in my opinion grossly unfair, and I cannot shake the feeling that if the story had been the other way around, it would be met with an indulgent understanding of 'factions, players, has-beens and firebrands' within Hamas.

Davis said...

Having said that, here's the relevant editorial from Haaretz...

Why boycott Qatar?
By Haaretz Editorial

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made an odd decision. She canceled her participation in the UN-sponsored sixth International Conference on New or Restored Democracies, which is being held next month in Qatar.

The reason for the cancelation: the participation in the event by Palestinian government lawmakers from Hamas.

It is difficult to comprehend what motivated Livni's decision, especially in light of the fact that she will permit senior Foreign Ministry officials to take part in the conference.

Does this mean that the presence of a representative from the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the same place as parliamentarians from Hamas does not indicate recognition of Hamas, while a minister's participation in the event would translate into recognition of the movement?

Perhaps Israel should declare a boycott of Qatar, the only Arab state that is willing to maintain friendly relations with it and to permit an Israeli representation to operate in Doha, despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties? Or perhaps the conference should be boycotted because it includes representatives from, among others, Iran, Syria and Lebanon?

A significant lack of insight characterizes Livni's decision. She was not being asked to speak with the Hamas members or to shake their hands. Furthermore, Qatar was the target of great pressure and criticism for having invited her.

The Lebanese foreign minister, among others, decided not to attend the conference, but Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, was not deterred - just as he has not been deterred from meeting Israeli officials in New York and other locations, and just as he did not refrain from an attempt to mediate the conflict with the Palestinians despite the low chance of success. By inviting Israel - with the agreement of Qatar's leader - the foreign minister sought to reach an additional stage in Israel's legitimization that would have tested the other Arab and Islamic states that are participating in the event.

Livni apparently decided that Israel was not obligated to respect the boldness shown by Qatar's leaders.

In her eyes, the opportunity just to make an appearance in surroundings that are ordinarily out-of-bounds to Israel was less important than enforcing the boycott against Hamas.

The result is not only a diplomatic loss to Israel, but also a total win to Hamas. Its representatives who, like Israel's, are suffering from a dearth of invitations to Arab states, now realize that they have veto power over any Arab gesture toward Israel. It is sufficient for a Hamas representative to attend a conference for Israel to be left out. The leaders of Hamas could not have predicted such a diplomatic achievement.

Livni's self-righteous declaration that Israel will not go where terror organizations have been invited cannot be accepted in this instance.

Representatives of states that are friendly with Israel went to Qatar, and the conference is sponsored by the UN, in which Israel is active and which is itself bound by certain definitions of terror organizations. Most of the states attending continue to boycott Hamas, for exactly the same reasons as Israel does.

Livni should have taken more time for consideration before making her decision.

William said...

Well, I guess the Haaretz editorial says it way better than I did. My sentiments were clumsily expressed - but Haaretz lays it on the line. And you posted it Davis - makes sense wouldn't you say?

Davis said...

True, in this case Haaretz (and you)do make a valid point. However, they do not use this as a sign of 'how reluctant Israel is to have even a semblance of peace', but use practical arguments as to why in this case Livni should have gone.

I am still not convinced that Israel has to go where Hamas is invited...