JERUSALEM, (AP) -Israel’s prime minister on Sunday downplayed the Russian foreign minister’s comments that it was “unrealistic” to demand that Hamas immediately recognize Israel and disarm.
The demands have been made by Israel and the so-called Quartet of international Mideast negotiators, to which Russia belongs.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, should be given more time to accept these demands.
“In the end, the policy will be set by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” an Israeli government official quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as telling the Cabinet at its weekly session.
In the meantime, Olmert said, “there is no change in the principles laid down by the Quartet and Russia,” according to the official who took part in the meeting.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss policy with the media.
Meanwhile, one Palestinian was killed and 15 were wounded Sunday in a battle with Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Tamoun, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said. Israeli troops were there to arrest an Islamic Jihad militant.
Also Sunday, a Palestinian security officer allied with moderate President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction was killed in internal Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials said.
Since Hamas took over the Palestinian government last spring, Western powers and Israel have imposed crushing international sanctions in an effort to pressure Hamas to accept the Quartet’s demands. So far, the Islamic militant group has remain unbowed, even though the sanctions have rendered it unable to pay 165,000 civil servants who provide for one-third of Palestinians.
Olmert said Russian officials did not urge Israel to soften its stance regarding Hamas during his three-day visit to Moscow last week.
At the same time, he acknowledged that while Russia has become more evenhanded in its approach to Israel, Moscow could not be expected to totally reverse its historical support for the Palestinians.
In an interview published Friday in the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA, Lavrov said Hamas could “move gradually toward accepting” the international conditions.
“Demanding now that Hamas fully accept the Quartet’s conditions, such as the recognition of Israel, the denunciation of violence against Israel and the acceptance of all existing agreements is unrealistic at the present stage,” Lavrov said.
After Hamas won parliamentary elections in January, Moscow invited the militant group’s leaders to visit over Israeli objections.
Lavrov told Olmert in Moscow that keeping up contacts with Hamas could help to moderate them. Olmert told the Russians he disagreed.