Israel softened its stance Saturday against the participation of Hamas in the January Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
"Israel is not going to stop Hamas from participating in the elections," a senior government source told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday. But he added that Israel would not deal politically with Hamas following the elections, should members of the group be elected to office.
In addition, Israel would also not take any steps to help with the elections should Hamas participate in them. He did not clarify what he meant.
The source's statements followed a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C. between US President George W. Bush and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
During the meeting, Bush spoke about the need to "confront the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine," but failed to take a stand against the participation of Hamas in the elections.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio that Israel "would do everything it could to prevent Hamas from participating in the elections." But on Saturday, after the meeting between Bush and Abbas, a senior government source told the Post that Israel was not going to take "any action to get involved in the internal political process of the Palestinian Authority." But it would continue to pursue terrorists and to work to stop their activities against Israel, the source said.
Abbas is mistaken in his belief that if Hamas enters the political process it will cease to use terror as a tactic, said the source.
The opposite was true, warned the senior government official. "It will be more difficult to disarm them," he said.
He said that Bush did not take a harsher stand because his advisers had told him that the United States could not enforce the "removal of Hamas from the ballot."
According to the source, Israel saw in Bush's words Thursday, which cast doubt over the creation of a Palestinian state during his term in office, a recognition that Abbas may not be able to stop the terror as he is required to do under the road map.