The swearing-in of Hamas to the Palestinian parliament on Saturday drew sharp criticism from Israeli politicians.
Labor MK Benyamin Ben-Eliezer said that a Palestinian government led by Hamas is a terror government. “If Hamas does not realize that
it cannot act like a religious party and should become a political party, we will have a terror parliament and a terror government.”
“Israel should say: ‘If Hamas revokes all previous agreement, there will be a total rift with them, including the banning of Palestinian entry to Israel, freezing money transfers and building border crossings,” Ben-Eliezer said.
“On the other hand there is Ismail Haniyeh and we see that there isn’t a single implementation on their side. What is a long term truce? There is no recognition of Israel, and no commitment to all that has been agreed upon. Israel has to understand that it is facing a new constellation,” he added.
Addressing the new parliament, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that "the elections have created a new political situation."
He declared that he would ask Hamas to form the new government, but reminded the next prime minister that the Oslo agreement and a series of understandings with Israel are binding, as well as all the commitments accepted by the two sides as part of the Road Map, on the road to an independent Palestinian state living in full and just peace with Israel.
Likud: Olmert government is weak
Likud waged a scathing attack at Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, accusing his government of adopting a left-wing policy against Hamas.
“The government was mistaken all the way in its handling of the Palestinian elections, in transferring funds to Hamas and it continues to stick its head in the mud and refuses to take crucial actions against Hamas. The delay in taking needed decisions point to weakness and hesitancy in Olmert’s government,” Likud sources told Ynet.
MK Uri Ariel (National Religious Party-National Union) said Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should threaten the Palestinian Authority with sanctions after Saturday’s swearing-in of the new Hamas-dominated parliament.
“Having brought Hamas to power, he is strengthening it. He issues warning and never implements them, which will be seen as weakness in the eyes of terrorists,” Ariel said.
Arab parties welcome Abbas speech
Labor MK Ephraim Sneh responded to Abbas speech saying “the speech opens a communications channel that does not involve Hamas and Israel should use this channel.”
Meanwhile, Labor officials criticized Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s policy toward the Palestinian Authority since Hamas’s election victory, saying “Ehud Olmert has revealed himself as adopting an extreme right-wing policy. His decision to starve the Palestinian people will encourage extremists and jeopardize Israel’s security.”
The party also welcomed Abbas’s call on Hamas to recognize past agreements with Israel: “Labor sees Mahmoud Abbas a partner in peace talks.”
Meretz-Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin called on the government to accept Abbas' call to commit to renewing negotiations with the PLO after the Israeli elections.
"Israel made a terrible mistake by weakening the PA and Abbas in the past few years. It must not repeat this mistake by making hasty decisions, such as preventing aid that will restrict the PA and risk Israel's interest before a Palestinian government has been elected," Beilin said.
Former Shin Bet chief and Kadima Knesset candidate Avi Dichter on Saturday compared Hamas charter to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, warning of Israeli complacency towards the Islamic group.
Dichter added: “Israel warned clearly that Hamas is tainting the Palestinian Authority with the colors of terror. Hamas was asked to accept three conditions to change its position from an enemy to something else: renouncing terror, respecting all agreements, scrapping Hamas’s 1988 charter.”
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra of Kadima said that "Israel has enough tools to deal with Hamas, but it is in a dilemma on how to do so without hurting civilians.”
Arab parties welcomed the ceremony. Hadash leader MK Ahmad Barakeh who attended the inauguration of the new parliament in Ramallah welcomed Abbas’s speech after meeting the Palestinian leader.
“Abbas drew the Palestinian political map and extended his hand for a real political process. This requires the Israeli government to renew talks with him,” Barakeh said.
MK Ahmed Tibi who met the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said threats by Israel and international powers to curtail aid to the Palestinian Authority and impose economic sanctions are unacceptable because “we speak of a democratic decision taken by the Palestinian people. Democracy cannot be conditioned.”
Roee Nahmias, Anat Barshkovsky, and Ali Waked contributed to this report