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(photo credit: GPO)
Hamas has asked for guidance, instructions and financial assistance from Iran as it prepares to take over the Palestinian Authority, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Friday.
"Hamas is currently trying to obtain funding from Iran and has asked the Iranians for advice on how they think Hamas should lead the PA," Mofaz told Solana during a meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. "You can understand what type of PA the Hamas plans to establish here."
Mofaz met with Solana several hours before a meeting with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and additional senior diplomatic and defense officials about Israel's response to the soon-to-be formation of a Hamas-led Palestinian government following the inauguration of the newly-elected Palestinian Legislative Council this weekend. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Minister-Without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi will also participate in the meeting.
Mofaz stressed to Solana Israel's position on the Hamas and how it would continue to refuse to deal with a Hamas-run PA until the radical group recognized Israel's right to exist, disarmed its terror wing and committed itself to the US-backed Road Map peace initiative.
"We cannot talk with a terror group that has the blood of thousands of people on its hands," Mofaz told the EU official. "If Hamas doesn't meet Israel's demands then the group will continue its plan to take over the PA and over the next few years we will face a PA terror entity - something we will not accept."
Mofaz asked Solana for help in pressuring PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas into making Israe's demands part of his conditions for the formation of a new PA government expected to fall on the shoulders of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. He also stressed that Israel did not plan on preventing the transfer of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people but called on Solana to instruct international organizations to transfer the assistance directly to the people while bypassing the PA.
"Israel will not take steps against the Palestinian people," Mofaz said. "We will not prevent humanitarian assistance and on the contrary we believe that international support needs to continue."
Working to tighten the noose around Hamas, Mofaz on Thursday approved a long list of harsh economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority ranging from a ban on workers from entering Israel to an immediate halt of money transfers to the PA.
Meeting with security officials in the run-up to the inauguration of the new Hamas-run Palestinian Legislative Council this weekend, Mofaz decided to minimize Israel's financial connections with the PA as part of an overall effort to convince the radical group to abandon its path of terror.
"The swearing-in of the Palestinian parliament on Saturday rings a gong for us," Mofaz told the officials. "A Hamas government will mean an authority of terror and murder. Already today Hamas is part of the Axis of Evil that begins in Iran, continues to Syria, Hizbullah and now to the Palestinian Authority."
In addition to the slamming the brake on funding, Mofaz also accepted recommendations to turn Gaza's Karni and Erez Crossings into international border terminals. If the recommendation is accepted by Olmert, the Palestinians would no longer be allowed to move merchandise out of Gaza free of charge and would need to pay customs and other taxes. Mofaz also froze plans to build a harbor and airport in Gaza. For the time being, Mofaz ordered the defense establishment to refrain from placing any restrictions on the transfer of humanitarian, electric and water supplies to Gaza.
The measures, which officials said were expected to be approved by Olmert during a high-level meeting on Friday, would go into effect beginning Sunday. The sanction's goal, officials said, was to convince Hamas to meet Israel's conditions for talks - an acceptance of previous agreements with the PA; recognition of Israel's right to exist and the dismantlement of its terror infrastructure. Mofaz appointed Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yosef Mishlav to head up a team which will present weekly recommendations on how to further isolate Hamas.