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Prominent Israelis Criticize Netanyahu

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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