JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israel criticised Russia’s plan to invite Hamas leaders to Moscow, saying on Friday it undercut international pressure on the militant group to recognise the Jewish state and renounce violence after its election victory.
Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, warned in an interview with The New York Sun against what she called a “slippery slope” that could lead some international powers to compromise with Hamas.
Speaking on Israel Radio, Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “stabbing Israel in the back” for saying on Thursday that he planned to invite leaders of Hamas to visit.
Israeli officials said Russia’s move could weaken the resolve of other countries regarding contact with Hamas, which won Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections.
“Any weakness … will result in a negative effect — not only for Israel, but also for the Palestinian people and for the international community,” Livni said in the newspaper interview.
Senior Israeli officials said Israel was seeking a full explanation from Russia’s ambassador to the Jewish state, and from other top Russian officials.
“It’s not just a slap in the face to Israel. It’s a slap in the face to Western countries,” said one Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks with Russia were ongoing. “We are waiting for an explanation.”
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has also asked Moscow to explain Putin’s statement.
Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by Washington, won a crushing victory over the long-dominant Fatah group in an election on Jan. 25.
Israel has said governments should not speak to Hamas unless it recognised the Jewish state and renounced violence. It has ruled outnegotiating with the group, which has masterminded more than 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since 2000.
Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said that leaders of the group, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, “would be delighted” to visit Russia if Putin tendered a formal invitation.
At a meeting in London on Jan. 30, Quartet representatives said the Palestinians risked losing international aid if Hamas did not renounce violence and recognise Israel. Hamas has rejected the demand.
Hamas has largely adhered to a truce militant factions declared in March and has suggested it could be extended further if Israel gave up land it captured in the 1967 Middle East War.