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As part of his new initiative to form an alliance with Arab nations, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday to discuss cooperation between the two nations.
The two leaders discussed methods by which moderates in Gaza could be strengthened and Israel could avoid taking collective punitive measures against the Palestinians for the elections of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections.
"The rise of Hamas is a deep blow to the forces of peace," Peretz said following the hour-and-a-half meeting. "Egypt and the Arab world must understand the position of Israel and the Israeli Labor party. It is a clear and moral position that we cannot recognize a party that calls for Israel's destruction."
Peretz called on the world to support Israel's demands that Hamas recognize Israel, end terror, and honor existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"We can find a way to transfer money to moderate factions within the PA, and supervise them so that they will be directed towards humanitarian aims," Peretz said.
Peretz's statement marked a major departure by the Labor Party from its previous criticism of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to transfer funds to the PA. Wednesday morning, Olmert told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he would not, "see shades of gray," now that Hamas members had been sworn into the Palestinian parliament.
"We cannot take seriously Olmert's statements on this, he has gone back and forward so much on the issue," said MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who accompanied Peretz along with MKs Isaac Herzog and Benjamin Ben Eliezer.
Although Peretz spoke Arabic during his visit last week with Morocco's King Mohammed VI, he spoke English during Wednesday's meeting.
During the meeting, the Labor candidates emphasized that Israel and Egypt needed to find a way to strengthen Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "and the moderate forces" among the Palestinians, without allowing financial aid to reach Hamas.
"We do not feel that it would be wise to take steps that harm the situation and throw people straight into the arms of Hamas," said Herzog.
"We need to find an alternative mechanism to give funding to humanitarian causes."
"Egypt will play a major roll as a liaison with the Palestinian government and with Abbas," added Herzog. "We saw eye to eye not to cause any suffering to the Palestinian people. We expressed the clear position that we can not deal with Hamas as long as it calls for Israeli destruction."
Abbas agreed that the new Hamas-led government must accept the existing agreements with Israel, including the internationally backed "road map" plan for a Palestinian state.
On Tuesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for giving Hamas more time to change its positions on Israel and violence.
"I'm sure that Hamas will develop, will evolve," Aboul Gheit told a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
AP contributed to this report
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