Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said in Sunday's cabinet meeting that Hamas was, at this point, acting "responsibly," and added that he believed that the organization would soon attempt to rein in terror.
He added that the Palestinians were in shock following Hamas' victory in Wednesday's Palestinian Authority legislative elections, and that the Fatah was too busy with its own affairs to stop Hamas.
|PLC ELECTIONS AFTERMATH|
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took a firm line in the meeting, saying that Israel would not have any contacts with Hamas until and unless the organization renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel's right to exist, as well as all agreements hitherto signed with Israel.
Olmert reported on his and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's weekend efforts to convince world leaders to take a firm stance against Hamas's terror activity. Olmert delcared that the international community stood behind Israel.
"We clarified that without a clear abandonment of the path of terror, a recognition of Israel's right to exist in security and peace ... Israel won't have any contact with the Palestinians," Olmert said. "These principles are accepted by the international community. On this issue, I don't intend to make any compromises."
National Infrastructure Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) said that a distinction must be made between transferring money to the PA as long as Hamas has not taken its place in the government and transferring funds after Hamas takes over, in which case, Boim said, there would be "new rules."
Under the 1995 Israel-PA interim agreements, agreements Hamas does not recognize, Israel is to transfer to the PA each month tax and customs revenues it collects on the PA's behalf. A payment of some $60 million is scheduled to take place on Friday.
Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet (Israel Security Services) said on Sunday in a government meeting that Hamas are unsure of their next move following their election victory, saying that it may be prepared to accept a unity government with Fatah if it would ensure that funding to the Palestinian people continues.
He warned, however, that Iran was considering giving financial aid to the Palestinians if Europe and the US cease funding the Palestinian Authority in light of Hamas's victory.
He added that Fatah would be making a grave mistake if it lets PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas resign from his post.
One government official said that Israel was in no rush to publicize any decision on how it will deal with Hamas, beyond the carefully crafted statement that followed Thursday night's meeting of the security cabinet. That statement made clear that Israel would have no dealings with a government in which Hamas was a participant.
Government officials said that Israel wanted to see what happened over the course of the next few days before making operative decisions.
"What happens if we say we won't transfer the money, and the next day Hamas disarms and repeals its charter," one official in the Prime Minister's Office asked.
The official said that although the payment was due Friday, Israel could always "hold it up" for a few days, as has been done in the past.
Over the weekend, Olmert spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, French President Jacques Chirac, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
One official said that Mubarak and Abdullah, who both have strong radical Islamic elements in their own countries, were also worried about the Hamas landslide, and the possibility that it may spillover into their regimes.
Mubarak said that he would be speaking to the Palestinian leadership this week about the election results, and Abdullah called on the Palestinians to demonstrate "responsibility." Livni is scheduled to travel to Egypt Wednesday to talk with Mubarak about the new situation.
Olmert told both Arab leaders that Israel was deeply concerned about the election results, and would not cooperate with Hamas or with a PA government in which Hamas was a member.
He also said that Israel's position was clear, and needed to be made clear to the Palestinians: Hamas must be dismantled and it must repeal its charter calling for Israel's destruction.
Olmert repeated this message in his conversations with Chirac and Annan, adding that Israel ascribed great importance to a united international position that would make it clear to the Palestinians that there could be no contacts with Hamas or with a PA that calls for the destruction of Israel.
The thrust of Israeli diplomatic activity over the last few days has been to ensure that the Quartet and the EU foreign ministers - who are both holding meetings Monday - will send a strong message to this effect.
Chirac, according to Olmert's office, said that France's position was clear, and that there could be no political or diplomatic dialogue with an organization or government that did not explicitly renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to live in peace and security, and recognize all previous agreements signed between Israel and the PA.
Livni, meanwhile, spoke over the weekend with the foreign ministers of Britain, Italy and Russia. Following her conversation with Russia's Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the prospect of creating a democratic Palestinian state depended on " the renunciation of violence and terror, the disarmament of illegal armed groups and the recognition of Israel's right to exist