Israel Seeks to Isolate Hamas in Cease-fire Talks With Europe

Israel wants separate agreements with moderate Arab states, the PA and the international community.

Israel would like to see a diplomatic agreement bring the military operation in the Gaza Strip to an end - so long as the deal excludes Hamas, according to a decision made Sunday by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign and Defense ministers, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.

Israeli leadership will convey that message to visiting European statesmen Monday, stressing that an agreement on the Gaza Strip should include both regional and international components.

Olmert is scheduled to meet today with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Livni will meet with a troika of foreign ministers from the European Union.

In addition to the foreign ministers of Sweden, France and the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating presidency, two senior officials charged with EU foreign policy, Javier Solana and Benita Ferrero-Waldner will also attend the meeting.

Israel's diplomatic strategy is based on a conclusion that it will not seek a new cease-fire agreement with Hamas through the services of an external mediator, which decision makers believe only legitimizes the radical Islamist organization.

"Hamas has already proved that it is not a partner [for peace] when it violated the cease-fire," a senior political source said Sunday in Jerusalem.

Israel will instead seek separate agreements with moderate Arab states, with the Palestinian Authority and with the international community.

"The international community will initiate the agreements and will impose it on Hamas," the same source said. "The agreements will be with both the PA and Egypt and then if Hamas will not agree it will pay the price, mostly by even greater [diplomatic] isolation."

Israel is seeking three agreements:

*On smuggling, a deal with Egypt, with American involvement, which already exists in the form of combat engineers working to uncover tunnels.

*On the crossings, Israel would like to bolster a 2005 agreement with the PA, Egypt, and the EU, that will restore use of the Rafah crossing and deployment of PA and EU officials that will oversee its operation.

*On a cease-fire, Israel would like to involve the U.S., France and moderate Arab countries, in a Security Council agreement that will grant Israel the right to respond to Hamas violations.

Olmert told Sarkozy during a telephone conversation Sunday that, "the government has not authorized any steps to date that include the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip."

The Prime Minister stressed that Israel is differentiating between, "terrorists and innocent civilians living in the Strip" and reiterated that Israel is "doing a great deal to assist the population by allowing the transfer of humanitarian supplies."