Israel’s vice prime minister said that his government is violating its ban on talking to Hamas.
Haim Ramon said Monday that Israel is negotiating with Hamas, the first time a government minister has acknowledged that talks are underway. The talks appear to be taking place through Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, acting as a mediator, who met with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Sharm-al-Sheik on Monday.
Ramon made his comments at a Kadima faction meeting during a discussion on Gaza policy.
Also on Monday, a retired French diplomat told Le Figaro newspaper that he had met top Hamas leaders recently to hear their views on a cease-fire with Israel and reconciliation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
The report prompted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to admit the contacts were at Paris’ behest, though the government was firm on insisting Hamas recognize the Jewish state and foreswear terrorism before it can be formally engaged.
“Having contacts is necessary,” Kouchner told Europe 1 radio Monday. “They are not relations, they are contacts.”
Israeli officials said they had been reassured by France there is no change in its policies toward Hamas. Until now relations between France and Hamas have been limited to intelligence services.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly said that he would not meet with terrorists or “people who assassinate.” The U.S. and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Yves Aubin de La Messuziere from France met with Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas approximately one month ago, according to the article which broke the story.