Israel should do deal with Hamas, says congressman McGovern


Israel must work with terrorist group Hamas to find a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So says Congressman Jim McGovern, a Democrat who co-chairs the influential Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Mr McGovern describes himself as a supporter of Israel — despite having last travelled to the country when Ariel Sharon sat in the prime minister’s seat.

He said: “I think Israel does not have a perfect human rights record. I think the settlement policies are very troublesome.

“I understand the security concerns, but I also believe that ultimately, the way forward in Israel is for there to be real negotiations with the Palestinians — a two-state solution. People need to learn to live with each other — that’s the solution all over the world.”

Including negotiating with Hamas? “I don’t need to negotiate with my friends. I need to negotiate with the people I consider my adversaries and my enemies,” he says.

And Mr McGovern believes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March speech to Congress in protest against the Iran deal was a deliberate slight against US President Barack Obama.

Mr McGovern — who was in London last week to receive an accolade at the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards — said he continued to support the Iran deal.

The representative for Massachusetts, who boycotted Mr Netanyahu’s speech, said: “Netanyahu came and offered no alternatives.

“Netanyahu said: ‘No deal’ or ‘better deal’ but could not tell you what a better deal was. I thought that was a mistake.
“I don’t think it was constructive to the debate — it was polarising. We could have made adjustments to the agreement; I think Netanyahu could have chosen a better way to make that case.”

While he said it affected Mr Obama’s relationship with Mr Netanyahu, it did not damage overall relations between the countries.

He continued: “I thought the speech was a poke in the eye to President Obama, [but] we have strong relationship with Israel that goes beyond Netanyahu, beyond politicians and a particular administration.

“But for a lot of us, myself included, who are supporters of Israel, were taken aback by the speech.”

He added: “How we address Iran’s support of terrorist organisations around the world and its human rights record — those are issues that the world community needs to get together and figure out.

“I think Netanyahu’s approach and his speech before Congress, made it difficult to have those conversations.”

He denied that the deal with Iran was motivated by nations’ desire to exploit a new market for their products and buy its oil.

He said: “This agreement was about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon — we can argue about whether we should have asked for more; whether the agreement should have been broader. I am very concerned about the human rights situation there.”

He added: “My hope is that the Iran deal is going to work. Iran has an interest in co-operating because their economy has taken a hit because of the sanctions; it is in our interests to try and make sure there is a nuclear free Iran.

“The alternative was not acceptable; it would have ensured that Iran had the green light to go ahead and develop a weapon.
“I think the checks in place are pretty strong. It’s going to work if everyone keeps their word; this is not based on trust, we will know whether [the Iranians] are complying or not. I hope and pray that it does.”

And now, the human rights campaigner is calling on all Western governments to do more about regimes that support terror and deprive their people of democratic rights — including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

He explained: “Sometimes that involves targeted sanctions; sometimes that involves blanket sanctions; naming and shaming — we need to do whatever it takes.

“Part of the problem is we have alliances with some of these guys — we have been able to utilise their air space and have military presence on their soil, we have counted on them for oil… I could go on.

“I think we have been too quiet and let some of these countries get away with murder.

“I don’t think the US has been tough enough; I don’t think the world community has been tough enough.”

He added that he had doubts about the US government’s strategy on dealing with terror.

“I have serious reservations about our approach to our war on terror — I know it involves dropping lots of bombs, but I don’t know how it comes all together.”

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