The possibility of reaching a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians does not exist at this point , Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in the conclusion of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, in which the government approved the ban on fund transfer to the Palestinian Authority
"However, this is not the end of the world, we've been in a similar situation during Arafat's days," he added.
During the cabinet meeting, the government voted on a series of recommendations drafted by the defense establishment regarding Israel's relations with the Palestinian Authority, in wake of Hamas' win in elections and after a Hamas-led parliament took office Saturday.
The government approved five proposals concerning the PA in the meeting: A ban on transferring funds to the PA; imposing limitation on Hamas officials' movement; boosting inspections and upgrading the Karni and Erez crossings; preventing the transfer of equipment and assistance to the Palestinian security forces; and addressing the international community in a bid to prevent the transfer of funds to the PA interim government.
"The Palestinians should stop leaning on Israel for economic support. Israel should take a series of economic steps against the PA that will have a diplomatic meaning in the future," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.
'PA becoming terrorist authority'
During the meeting, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israel will not have any contact with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
"This morning I am submitting a detailed resolution on taking steps against the Hamas-led Authority. We have already declared a halt in fund transfers," Olmert said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. He added that a new situation of a "terrorist authority" has been created, which Israel cannot accept.
The acting prime minster said Israel has proven its willingness to work toward peace and the establishment of two states for two nations living side by side in peace and security.
“Israel will continue to provide protection for its citizens and will not compromise on this matter,” he said.
“The Palestinian Authority is in effect becoming a terrorist authority. Israel cannot accept this. Israel will not compromise with terror and will keep fighting it with full force. However, we do not wish to harm Palestinian civilians. We will not have any contact with a Hamas-led PA.”
Later Olmert said that a process of reducing contact with the PA will begin unless Hamas accepts three basic terms: Recognition of Israel, the dismantling of terror organizations and the acceptance of previous agreements reached between the PA and Israel.
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“The U.S. and the EU have included Hamas in their list of terror organizations and are refraining from holding talks with the group,” he said.
Ministers discuss Hamas (Photo :AFP)
As to the official invitation recently extended by Russia to Hamas, Olmert told the ministers that President Vladimir Putin relayed a message to him stating that Russia stands behind the Quartet’s policy regarding contact with Hamas “despite the fact that Russian law does not view Hamas as a terror organization.”
According to Olmert, Putin will not meet with Hamas representatives during their scheduled visit to Moscow.
Olmert finds himself between a rock and a hard place: Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is warning of the establishment of “Hamastan” in the PA and is demanding that Israel act firmly to “eradicate the cancer growing in the West Bank and Gaza”; on the other hand the international community, headed by the United States and Israel’s neighbors Egypt and Jordan, wants Olmert to refrain from declaring war on the PA.
Despite Olmert’s aforementioned statement, it is expected that Israel will act with restraint; the “price tag” for the swearing-in of Hamas-led parliament will be the freezing of money transfers to the PA, the prevention of Palestinian workers from entering the country and international economic pressure on the PA, in accordance with Israeli demands.
An example of the economic pressure the PA can expect could be seen over the weekend, when President George W. Bush demanded that Mahmoud Abbas return USD 50 million he received in aid from the U.S.
Netanyahu said Olmert’s declaration that Israel will halt all contacts with a Hamas-led Palestinian government was another government zigzag.
"Olmert's government gave Hamas NIS 250 million (about USD 54 million), and now because of the elections it is changing its stance. This is a confused government, which lacks experience and leadership. A tough policy must be adopted against Hamas, which wants to establish a second Iranian state here, and the political crash created by Olmert's government must be stopped," he said.