Officials at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem expressed their shock Thursday evening following Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas leaders to visit Moscow.
The officials made it clear that Putin's remarks contradict the Quartet's stance. They added that the Putin's statement Russia does not consider Hamas a terror group contradicts the outlook of the entire international community.
"Russia is part of the Quartet, and the Quartet's statement after Hamas' election was totally different," a senior official in Jerusalem said.
Putin's move is considered by Israel as a breach of the international circle of agreement regarding Hamas. Following the PA elections and talks held by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with state leaders and foreign ministers, it appeared that Russia would act according to the same understandings.
According to the understandings, there would be no dialogue with Hamas before it renounces terror and disarms, and until Hamas recognizes Israel and stops calling for its destruction and commits to all of the agreements signed between Israel and the PA since the Oslo agreement in 1993.
In the next few days, Israel is expected to try and find out why Moscow changed its stance. In addition, an effort will be made to prompt the states that reached an agreement with Israel on the demands to be made of Hamas to operate in order to change Russia's position.
In the past few months, Israel and Russia had reached a number of comprehensive agreements on international issues, from the position onthe murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to the Iran nuclear issue and the position on Hamas following its victory.
'Putin dancing with wolves'
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's associates said that Olmert was disappointed by Putin's invitation to Hamas leaders since the invitation breaches the international siege on the Palestinian terror organization and the demand not to start a dialogue with the group until it renounced terror and recognizes Israel.
Housing Minister Zeev Boim told Ynet that "Putin must understand that he is dancing with wolves and displaying double standards – on the one hand fighting the Chechen Muslim rebels, who are carrying out terror attacks in Russia, and on the other hand embracing Ayatollahs in Iran and terror representatives from Gaza."
"Putin's declaration on his willingness to allow Hamas' terror leaders to arrive in Moscow is very concerning. One must only wonder how Putin would feel if we would recognize a state led by the Chechen rebels. Russia must decide on its place among the free world states. After supporting Iran and Syria, it continues to reveal a very concerning position," Boim said.
Foreign Ministry officials were shocked by Putin's remarks. A ministry official said that only three weeks ago, following Hamas' victory, Livni spoke with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Shortly afterwards, the Russian Foreign Ministry issues a statement saying that "regardless of the election results, all the Palestinian participants in the election procedure should honor principles of settling the conflict through peaceful means, as determined in the Road Map."
The statement also stressed that "establishing an independent and democratic Palestinian state assumes that terror and violence are renounced and illegal military groups are disarmed, and that Israel's right to exist in peace and safety is recognized," a Foreign Ministry official said.
U.S.: Putin must clarify stance
The news of Putin's offer brought a sharp reaction also from the United States. An American official even asked how would the Russians react should the U.S. invite leaders of the Chechen rebels to visit Washington.
The State department said Thursday that Washington will demand clarifications from Russia about its intention to invite Hams leaders for talks in Moscow.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington expected Russia to uphold international demands that Hamas give up armed resistance and recognize Israel's right to exist.
"At this point we have sought some clarification from the Russians as to what exactly their intentions are, what their plans are," McCormack said.
"As a member of the quartet, we would certainly expect that Russia would deliver that same message," he said.
The Americans' anger stems from the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signed five days ago on the Quartet's decision to condition talks with a Hamas-led government on the group renouncing terror, disarming its terror infrastructures and recognizing Israel and the agreements signed so far between Israel and the Palestinians.
Washington officials said that Putin's remarks hurt the international effort to isolate Hamas and force the group the toe the line with the international community. The officials added that the invitation issued by Putin to Hamas leaders contradicts the Americans' efforts in the global war against terror.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Williams Burns, who is very involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, was asked to pass the Americans' protest to Putin and to act to change the decision.
Annan counsels international patience with Hamas
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the international community on Thursday to give the Islamic militant group Hamas more time to change its ways before writing it off as a partner for Middle East peace.
Annan, speaking with reporters, counseled patience with the group so soon after its upset election victory.
"We are at a very early stage of the game," he said. "Hamas won the election but they have never been in government. They need time to organize themselves."
He said he hoped this would come during the three-month transitional period while Abbas was still in office.
Noting talks between Hamas and regional powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he urged Hamas to heed the advice of the Quartet and other interested governments and honor the Palestinian Authority's past commitments, transform itself into a political party, and recognize the right of Israel to exist side-by-side in peace with an eventual Palestinian state.
Annan said he believed the Hamas election win reflected the group's record of social service and fighting corruption rather than a shift in voter sentiment toward Islamic militancy.
"My sense is they were voting for a peaceful and stable and well-organized Palestine. So there is a lesson there and a message for rulers and politicians in the region and everywhere in the world: That people want good government and will vote for people that they believe would offer that," he said.
Annan spoke before his meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who complained about his condemnation of Israel's targeted killing policy. Livni stressed that the Israeli government is committed to safeguard its citizens and cannot wait for terror attacks on Israeli territory.
Livni made it clear to Annan that she expects the U.N. to distinguish between an IDF soldier thwarting a terror attack and the terrorist, who may continue to blow himself up in discotheques if he is not stopped.
Yitzhak Benhorin and news agencies contributed to the report