Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem are sharply criticizing South Africa for attempting to open a dialogue with the Hamas government, and receive President Mahmoud Abbas’ approval for the meeting.
South African President Thabo Mbeki met with Abbas during the UN General Assembly meetings in New York and has reportedly asked for his permission to meet with representatives of the Hamas government. After Hamas was elected to head the government of the Palestinian Authority, South Africa was one of the first nations to initiate contact with them, and invited a delegation of Hamas representatives to the capital Pretoria for an official visit. Ultimately, the visit was cancelled because of objections from President Abbas himself.
The subject was also raised during a recent meeting between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Mbeki. Livni told the president that the suggestion to renew the talks with Hamas is the worst idea of them all. “Now is the time to be consistent. Hamas must make its choice. Israel sees Hamas as an extremist organization which will not fold and so is working with Abu Mazen to renew the negotiations,” Livni said.
Mbeki told Livni that South Africa sees the stalemate as harmful and there is a need to act politically. South Africa supports talks between Hamas and Fatah for the formation of a unity government. “The Palestinian man-on-the-street who is trying to live without a salary is suffering,” said Mbeki.