Foreign minister must drop double standard and talk with Palestinians

13 April 2006

Foreign minister must drop double standard and talk with Palestinians

Foreign Minister Ben Bot wants to curtail financial aid to the new, democratically elected Palestinian government until ruling party Hamas is prepared to forswear violence, recognise Israel and commit itself to prior treaties such as the Road Map. This is foolish, say Member of Parliament and SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel and SP Senator and Middle East specialist Anja Meulenbelt, certainly if similar demands are not placed on Israel.

The fact is that Hamas has already shown that it will maintain a cease-fire and is prepared to talk. The only Palestinian violence currently occurring is coming from Fatah, yet the western powers are willing to maintain contact with them through the President. Israel also continues to employ violence: since Friday seventeen Palestinians have died in bombardments, including two children. Israel has neither recognised the Palestinian state, through a withdrawal to the 1967 borders, nor accepted its democratically elected government as a negotiating partner, nor maintained a commitment to the Road Map, which requires the ending of expansion of the settlements. We have still not heard that Mr Bot is making the same demands on Israel as he is on the Palestinians, which can only arouse suspicions that he is applying a double standard.

In the latest report to the government from the WRR (the official research body charged with advising the government on policy issues) it is argued that negotiations with Islamic organisations should be continued. There are equally in the Middle East tendencies which are working for democratic reforms. A strong faction within Hamas wants to convert it from a terrorist to a political organisation that strives for political solutions, as has already occurred in the case of the ANC, the PLO and the IRA, each of which changed course. This development should be supported by the Netherlands, instead of dismissed.

It is not only the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories and the area's stability which are at stake, but Europe's credibility. We can't preach democracy if we then immediately reject the result of the elections and refuse to accept the democratically elected government (the first in an Arab country!) as a negotiating partner.

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