Hamas Victory Clouds Future of Mideast Peace Process

The militant Islamist group Hamas' victory in this week's Palestinian elections stunned many international observers, and raised new questions about the future of the Middle East peace process. Alex Chadwick speaks to Israeli ambassador Daniel Ayalon about what the Hamas victory means for Palestinian-Israeli relations.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, our Juan Williams has been talking with the Secretary of State this week. We'll hear what she has to say about Hamas.

BRAND: The radical Islamic party won an overwhelming victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Today, party leaders said they have no intention of recognizing Israel. Israel's government, meanwhile, is appealing to the world not to legitimize Hamas.

Shortly before our program began today, Alex spoke by phone with Israel's ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon.

CHADWICK: Mr. Ambassador, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Ambassador DANIEL AYALON (Israel): Thank you.

CHADWICK: The US, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia meet on Monday to discuss this Hamas victory. What would Israel like to see come out of that meeting?

Ambassador AYALON: Well, I think it is very important to keep consistency, and all these countries and organizations that you mentioned look and see Hamas as a terror organization. They are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. This is explicitly appearing on their charter, not to mention, of course, all the terror activities that they are engaged in. It is imperative that they will disarm completely and also change the charter if they want to become any legitimate partner for negotiations.

CHADWICK: I have seen statements like that come out of European countries and from Kofi Annan at the UN. Do you think Israel getting the support that it wants so far?

Ambassador AYALON: I hope so. We have this vision of two-state solution. We have a roadmap how to achieve it. This roadmap has been underwritten by the quartet and supported by the entire international community. It calls for the dismantlement of all terror organizations, first and foremost, Hamas, so I think nothing has changed in the way the world looks at the situation and also the plan for the future.

CHADWICK: Well, the one thing that's changed is that you now have Hamas voted into power in the entity that's on your border. What is Israel going to do?

Ambassador AYALON: It is not really up to Israel. It's for the Palestinians. They voted. The results are known. Certainly there is a change in the situation. The ball is in the Palestinian court. Firstly, we would not reach out to anyone who wishes our demise. Secondly, we would not negotiate with anyone who brings explosives and armament to the table.

CHADWICK: But what will Israel do? Is, are things just absolutely static and nothing is going to happen until - until what? Until Hamas declares that it has changed?

Ambassador AYALON: Well, Israel is very much committed to the vision of President Bush, a two-state solution, two states living side-by-side with security and with peace. We also are very much committed to the roadmap to peace. Now we have a situation where Hamas is there. We know exactly what they think. We know exactly what they do. Clearly, we will not change our policies. We will not change our strategy. We would like to see peace in our region, and first and foremost, with the Palestinians.

CHADWICK: I think I saw in news accounts that the European Union gives 500 million euros a year to the Palestinian Authority. Will Israel demand an end to that aid?

Ambassador AYALON: Part of the problem that we have, not just with the Palestinian terror but with global terrorism, is the almost uninterrupted flow of finance. So certainly, Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, should be denied any financial means because that for sure will continue the violence...

CHADWICK: Is that a yes, Mr. Ambassador? Will you be calling on the European Union to end aid to the Palestinian Authority?

Ambassador AYALON: Well, certainly to the Hamas and all terror organizations which are engaged in violence.

CHADWICK: Israel's ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon. Mr. Ayalon, thank you very much for joining us.

Ambassador AYALON: You're welcome.

CHADWICK: And this program note: DAY TO DAY has been trying to get a comment from the Hamas party and hopes to speak to a Palestinian representative in the next few days.

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