Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel can deal with Hamas if it has to, disputing statements by other Israelis that the violent Islamic group that is taking power after winning Palestinian elections is a strategic threat to the Jewish state.
Speaking to soldiers and security officials at a gathering in Tel Aviv, Olmert said, "Hamas doesn't frighten us." He also said Israel would not give up on a chance for peace with the Palestinians, though he was determined not to deal with Hamas.
"If there is a need, we can handle Hamas," Olmert said. In contrast, Likud Party head Binyamin Netanyahu and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin have warned that the Islamic group, responsible for dozens of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis, is an existential threat. Hamas is in the process of forming a government after sweeping last month's Palestinian Legislative Council elections.