A former senior British diplomat has called for talks with Hamas to bring it into the Middle East political process.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades.

Sir John Holmes, UN emergency relief co-ordinator during the last Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2009, said it was useless pretending the group would simply go away.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “What is most depressing is it is very much the same… Eventually there was a ceasefire, but here we are, five years later, in exactly the same position.

“I fear that, unless we escape this infernal logic of violence on both sides, in five years’ time we will be in exactly the same situation again.

“So something has to change – obviously the fighting has to end very quickly because the bloodshed is completely unacceptable from every point of view, but the politics at the same time.

“Hamas is not going to go away and I think that we have accept that, instead of just isolating Hamas, we need to talk to them.”

Sir John, who is co-chair of the International Rescue Committee UK, said this had been done with both the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the IRA, although he accepted that nothing was likely to change in the short term.

He went on: “Let’s try to get away from this logic of not talking to them.

“Let’s get away from the siege of Gaza which is only creating more bitterness and hatred and despair, which is not in Israel’s long-term interests.

“It is not going to change in the short term. I accept¬†Israel¬†is going to say ‘Well, that is just rewarding terrorism’ but that is the kind of language and attitude we have to get away from.

“The rest of the world has to say ‘We can’t go on like this’. We have to talk to Hamas… Let’s talk to them as we did talk to others and try to bring them into the political process and stop pretending they are going to go away.

“We have to get away from the past methods which haven’t worked. Madness consists of doing the same things time and time again and hoping the result will be different.

“The Israelis and the Palestinians in the end are going to have to do this between them. I think we can encourage that by trying to change the political logic… and by getting in a different situation. Not next week, but next year maybe.”