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Israel signals no ties with Palestinians under Hamas
Updated: 2006-02-15 16:15

Israel said on Tuesday it would "review all contacts" with the Palestinians if Hamas militants who won last month's election head a future government.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made Israel's strongest statements yet against Hamas's surprise victory in the January 25 parliamentary poll, just days before the group was set to assume control of the legislature when it convenes on Saturday.

Hamas, which won 74 seats in the 132-member parliament, trouncing Abbas' long dominant Fatah party, has said it expects to head the next Palestinian government.

Olmert said that if a Palestinian government is "dominated by a majority of Hamas people, it ceases to be the authority it was, becomes something entirely different, something Israel is not ready to compromise nor is it ready to acquiesce with."

"The day (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas will appoint a Hamas representative to head a government, we will review all contacts" with it, Olmert told American Jewish leaders.

Israel "will not negotiate and will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that will be dominated wholly or partly by a terrorist organization," Olmert added, in a speech.

Olmert, who has assumed power after Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a January 4 stroke, expressed satisfaction with broad U.S.-led rejection of contacts with Hamas unless it amends its charter that calls to destroy Israel.

The Israeli leader said it would be up to Abbas "to make a serious choice about priorities," to make sure his next government is based on recognizing Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state.

"We will not be able to continue the same pattern of relations if he (Abbas) will choose to surrender" to Hamas' policies, Olmert said.


Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, a key mediator between the Palestinians and Israel, said in an interview published in Cairo he would not tell Hamas to recognize Israel but that he thought eventually the two could make peace.

"The question needs time and effort from them and from you at the same time," Mubarak said, in remarks after meeting Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

"Don't think that overnight it (Hamas) will say 'We will deal with Israel' and that's that. That's impossible. There is hope and we must not be pessimistic," Mubarak said.

Abbas intends to insist that Hamas accept his vision of peacemaking with Israel, an aide said, a demand that could stall efforts to create a new Palestinian government which Hamas, as parliament's largest faction, expects to head.

Under powers granted to him by law, Abbas could refuse to ratify or cooperate with a new administration if built on Hamas policies he finds unacceptable, the aide said.

Hamas has masterminded nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000, but has largely adhered to a truce declared last March.

In fresh violence, an Israeli unmanned drone fired a missile at Gaza gunmen launching rockets at Israel, causing no injury, Palestinian security sources and medics said. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets.

The Israeli army denied firing any missiles but said its gunners had fired artillery shells at sites in Gaza from where rockets were launched at Israel, one striking near a "sensitive installation" in the city of Ashkelon. There were no injuries.

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