Israel maintained a low profile Wednesday night following the initial exit polls showing a Fatah victory, but strong Hamas showing, in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
Officials in both the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office said a decision was taken not to react to the elections on the basis of exit polls.
The general feeling, however, was that Israel should wait and see how PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas dealt with the new reality before formally reacting.
Israel is waiting to see if Abbas will include Hamas in the government, and whether it will fulfill its obligation to dismantle the terrorist organizations.
At the same time, Israel is working though diplomatic channels to ensure that the Quartet, which is to meet in London at the end of the month, will come out strongly against Hamas's participation in a PA government. The Quartet is made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN.
In Washington, the US administration stressed the demand that the Palestinian Authority not include in its future government any members who do not accept the right of Israel to exist or engage in terror. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in his daily press briefing that the US adheres to the call of the Quartet not to allow terrorists to take part in the Palestinian cabinet and that this approach had not changed.
"The Palestinian people need to resolve the fundamental contradiction of groups and individuals who want to have one foot in the camp of terror and one foot in the democratic
He called for the Palestinian Authority to implement the policy of "one Authority, one gun" and not allow any other armed militias in the Palestinian territories.
The spokesman added that it was too early to establish what would be the American policy regarding the future Palestinian cabinet, but said this policy would be based on several guidelines: the road map that called for dismantling the terror groups, the Quartet decision on this issue and the statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which pointed out that the US view toward the Hamas had not changed.
"The issue isn't Hamas but what the Palestinian Authority looks like," said McCormack.
The State Department and the White House pointed out that the elections in the PA were an historic event for the Palestinian people and vowed to help the Palestinians establish democratic institutions.
Both Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas are scheduled to hold separate meetings Thursday with Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn.
Olmert met US Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) Wednesday before the closing of the Palestinian polls, and said Israel could never accept a situation where Hamas, a terrorist organization calling for Israel's destruction, would be part of the PA without first disarming. Biden was here to help monitor the PA elections.
"I will not conduct negotiations with a government that does not stand by its most basic obligation - to fight terror," Olmert said. "We are prepared to help the Palestinians and Abu Mazen [Abbas] a great deal, but they must honor their commitments." Olmert said he would be happy to meet and discuss the road map with Abbas.
A high-level working group headed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top adviser Dov Weisglass also met Wednesday, and is likely to meet Thursday as well, to assess the ramifications of the elections and recommend Israeli policy.
Olmert also convened a meeting with top ministers and security officials to get a progress report on the security fence, where it was decided to recommend to the cabinet on Sunday a change in the route of the fence near Jerusalem.
This change, recommended by the various security services, would place Beit Iksa, a village near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot, outside the security barrier.
Olmert also met Wednesday with Shimon Peres and discussed the PA elections prior to a meeting Peres will have Thursday in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah.