Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu There's a big advertisement in Haaretz Friday signed by 102 eminent Israelis. "The world is changing around us," it says, "but the government of Israel is stagnant and paralyzed." The "rejectionist policy" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "extraordinarily dangerous" and "threatens to make Hamas more legitimate in the world than the Israeli government." It calls for recognition of a democratic Palestinian state as the basis for ending the conflict. Pressure is growing on Netanyahu, at home and abroad. Britain and France are indicating they might support a Palestinian declaration of independence at the U.N. in September. Hillary Clinton has pointedly refused to rule out that the U.S. will deal with a new Palestinian government, even if it includes Hamas.
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Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu

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Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu

Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu

Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu

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There's a big advertisement in Haaretz Friday signed by 102 eminent Israelis. "The world is changing around us," it says, "but the government of Israel is stagnant and paralyzed." The "rejectionist policy" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "extraordinarily dangerous" and "threatens to make Hamas more legitimate in the world than the Israeli government." It calls for recognition of a democratic Palestinian state as the basis for ending the conflict. Pressure is growing on Netanyahu, at home and abroad. Britain and France are indicating they might support a Palestinian declaration of independence at the U.N. in September. Hillary Clinton has pointedly refused to rule out that the U.S. will deal with a new Palestinian government, even if it includes Hamas.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Jerusalem on the debate in Israel over whether this is indeed a deathblow to peace or a new beginning.

PHILIP REEVES: Author and political scientist Yaron Ezrahi is one of those who signed.

YARON EZRAHI: It's very important to recognize that Netanyahu's avoidance of a peace process is not a result of circumstances. It is a very firm policy of this prime minister.

REEVES: Fatah and Hamas have a long history of feuding. Their agreement may fall quickly apart. Ezrahi says it's impossible to predict what will happen, but he thinks Netanyahu's approach is wrong.

EZRAHI: I think a large part of the Israeli intelligentsia and rank- and-file citizens see this as an unbelievable, unexpected opportunity to tame Palestinian violence and move into diplomacy.

REEVES: Netanyahu's allies deny his government is systematically blocking peacemaking. They blame the Palestinians.

SILVAN SHALOM: We are trying for two years since we took power for them to come and to negotiate with Israel, and they gave so many reasons why not to.

REEVES: That's Silvan Shalom, Israel's deputy prime minister. Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel. Shalom says that's why there can't be peace negotiations right now.

SHALOM: To negotiate with a government that half of it is asking to kill you, as it looks to me, it doesn't make sense.

REEVES: Yet these are changing times. Look to history, says Yaron Ezrahi, it's littered with examples of other extremist organizations elsewhere that have forsworn violence as new states were born. Ezrahi is wary about all this, but he says Hamas should not necessarily be judged by its past.

EZRAHI: Hamas might be changing. If it is changing, it is in the beginning of the process of change because Hamas, once it enters this new framework of a Palestinian government, will increasingly have much more to lose by resulting to violence.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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