Olmert: Israel and the world will ignore a Hamas government and will make it irrelevant

By Aluf Benn, Lilach Weissman, Yoav Stern

Haaretz

Tevet 27, 5766

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday evening that a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas is "not a partner" in peace.

"If a government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a coalition partner is established, the Palestinian Authority will be turned into an authority that supports terror. Israel and the world will ignore it and make it irrelevant," Olmert said.

The Hamas victory in Wednesday's election to the Palestinian parliament elicited harsh responses from Israeli politicians in the lead-up to March?s Knesset elections. The right wing attacked Kadima and blamed the party for the Hamas victory while Labor and Meretz are bolstering their calls for unilateral moves.

Olmert urged patience and suggested waiting for post-election developments on the Palestinian side. At the same time, he maintained the PA must fulfill its obligations and said Israel will continue its war against terrorism.

The acting prime minister spoke during a consultation with security chiefs, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The intelligence analysis presented at the meeting suggests that Hamas will, in the short term, maintain the period of calm. However, defense figures expressed concern that various Fatah factions disappointed by the election results will take out their frustration by executing terror attacks.

Mofaz also met with top security officials Thursday morning to discuss the election results.

Netanyahu: 'Hamastan' has been created before our eyes
Responding to Hamas' victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that, "The state of 'Hamastan' has been created before our eyes - an Iranian satellite state in the image of the Taliban. It was created in close proximity to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion International Airport. We need to do some soul-searching, because the writing was on the wall. A policy of unilateral withdrawal rewarded Hamas terror."

Earlier Thursday, Likud said that the Hamas victory was a direct result of the disengagement plan and that Palestinians concluded from the Gaza pullout that terror and violence are the means to achieving diplomatic gains.

"The plan by Kadima and Labor for an additional unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank reflects a complete blindness to reality. [Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and Kadima are establishing a Hamas terror state that will be an Iranian offshoot, only a few kilometers from Israeli population centers," according to Likud.

"Today it is clear that when Israel flees, Hamas rises. Olmert and Kadima's continued unilateral withdrawals will harm the personal security of each and every one of us," MK Gideon Sa'ar (Likud) said.

"Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar should send a large bouquet of flowers to Ehud Olmert, who opted to give up in the war on terror," MK Effi Eitam (National Union) said.

Likud MK Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that the Israeli government made a grave mistake by allowing the Palestinian parliamentary elections take place with Hamas' participation.

Steinitz described the purported results as an "earthquake," and said they reflected Israel's "tragic failure" in its war against Hamas.

Steinitz, who is chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that Israel could have prevented Hamas' success, a terror organization whose goal is to destroy Israel, by preventing the vote from taking place even at the price of a confrontation with the United States.

"These elections contradict the Oslo Agreement and contradict democracy,"
he said.

Peretz: Hamas victory may lead to further unilateral moves
Labor Chairman Amir Peretz said Thursday that Hamas' victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections may lead Israel to implement further unilateral measures.

Speaking in the Knesset, Peretz said that he would not conduct negotiations with Hamas. "We will not conduct negotiations with an organization that does not recognize Israel's right to exist," he said. "If we have to, we will implement unilateral moves. We will not agree to a diplomatic stalemate. The changes in the Palestinian Authority will not hold us hostage," he said.

The Labor Party's recently published platform states that negotiations are preferable, but does not rule out unilateral moves.

"We have no intention of allowing negotiations to take place, or let someone else force us to recognize an organization that declares it seeks to destroy Israel," Peretz said.

The Labor chairman also said Hamas is not a partner, saying that it undermines stability in the Middle East.

Peretz added that the new reality requires the U.S. and European countries to clarify their stance.

"We have nothing to talk about with Hamas. But if Hamas recognizes our right to exist, we will reevaluate. Hamas, as it is today, is unprepared to alter a word in its platform," Labor MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said.

Beilin: Gaza pullout strengthened Hamas
The chairman of the leftist Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, said Thursday that the election results still provided a chance for an agreement with moderate Palestinians. He called on Olmert to immediately launch peace talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Beilin told Israel Radio that Israel was to blame for the strengthening of Hamas. "Israel has a large role in weakening the Palestinian Authority and strengthening Hamas," Beilin said.

"The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, not as a part of an agreement with Abu Mazen, greatly strengthened Hamas," he said.

Beilin also warned that if Israel and the PA fail to reach an agreement soon, Hamas will win in the next elections.

Peres: Hamas will face end to int'l aid
Former prime minister Shimon Peres said Thursday morning that Hamas will have to deal with the termination of international aid to the Palestinians.

Olmert's office said Wednesday that the acting premier believes Israel cannot trust a Palestinian leadership in which Hamas has a role.

"Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming," Olmert told U.S. Senator Joseph Biden in a meeting Wednesday, according to Olmert's office. "I won't hold negotiations with a government that does not stick to its most basic obligation of fighting terror."

Israel is willing to help the Palestinians and Abbas "a great deal" but only if they crack down on terror groups, Olmert said.

Israel has repeatedly asked Abbas to force Hamas and other militant groups to disarm but Abbas has refused, warning such an act could cause civil war.