Dalai Lama Calls on Hamas to Reject Violence, Adopt More Realistic Approach

The Dalai Lama, who arrived in Israel for his fourth visit yesterday, said the purpose of his trip was to bring human beings closer, and the fact that neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials had agreed to meet with him did not seem to bother him.

"This has nothing to do with governments," the Dalai Lama said. "I want to say to both peoples that through violence they will attain nothing in the long term, and will only complicate things and create more hatred. After 50 years the time has come to think and to find a way for dialogue. The Israelis have to respect the Palestinians and vice-versa. There is readiness for dialogue on both sides, so really, the time has come".

The Dalai Lama said it was "too early to say" whether Israel should talk to Hamas. "I think we should wait and see," he added, appealing to Hamas to turn away from violence and to approach the situation "more realistically."

Wearing his trademark red robe and yellow shirt, large watch and out-sized glasses, the 14th Dalai Lama, who was named leader of the Tibetans at the age of two, told reporters laughingly that he had not slept well the previous night, and "perhaps my brain will not function as it should."

The 70-year-old leader was in Israel for a crowded five days of lectures on Buddhism, meetings with the Israel-Tibetan Friendship League, and a tour of Bethlehem. He said he would be meeting with Palestinians in Bethlehem, and "so if some Hamas people may join, then I am happy to see them."

The Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office are ignoring the visit in light of its complicated relations with China, including the cancellation of the sale of Phalcon radar systems to China. However the Shin Bet security service provided a bodyguard for the Dalai Lama, over protests from Beijing.

Israel Radio reported that the Chinese consul in Tel Aviv had sent a letter of protest to the Israeli authorities, comparing the Dalai Lama to the head of Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction. "If China would let the head of Hamas visit, Israel would be angry," the radio station cited the letter as saying.

China letter

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev would not confirm that China had sent such a letter, saying only that the Israeli government was not involved in the Dalai Lama's visit. Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv could not be reached for comment.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 during a failed revolt against Chinese rule and now lives across the border in India, said that since the Tibetans had become refugees they had tried to learn the secret of the Jews' preservation of their culture in the Diaspora.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate said he did not know how to solve the problem here although "if I would stay here for a few months, perhaps I would think of something." He added, "We believe in a solution of peace, and here in the region there are too many wars. We need peace, peace, peace."

An emissary of the Dalai Lama arrived yesterday in China for a new round of talks with Beijing, the fifth since 2002. The Dalai Lama told reporters that Tibet was "not seeking independence," but a "meaningful autonomy." He said he believed the Tibetans would achieve autonomy in his lifetime.

In an interview with Haaretz, the Dalai Lama said he recognized the aura of fame that surrounded him and brought politicians, singers, writers and actors from the West to visit him in India, and said it was only a passing trend. "Clearly the sympathy for the Tibetan people is a fashion and is temporary. But on the other hand, serious people are really learning more the principles of Buddhism and more institutions are teaching our religion and that will remain for a much longer time."

The Dalai Lama said he did not want to deal with what people said or thought about him, which would be wrong for him to do as a Buddhist. "I think my popularity and fame are important to the Tibetan movement. Winning the Nobel Prize opened to me the opportunity to appeal to wide audiences and tell many people about Tibet."

The Tibetan leader said media reports of a possible split in the movement after his death, when the Chinese would place a leader of their choosing at the head of Tibet's Buddhists, were ridiculous.

"The Chinese have been trying for years to spread rumors about my condition," he said. "Three years ago, Chinese leaders said I had fatal cancer and I was going to die soon. Many people, even some close to me, believed this. Of course, it did not happen. The Tibetan people will continue to flourish without me. The various streams of Tibetan Buddhism have worthy leadership and they can represent a new generation."