Israel Looking to Int'l Community to Pressure Palestinians

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel wants the West to pressure Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to fulfill his commitment to disarm Hamas, now that the terrorist group has won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections.

The Quartet -- the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations -- is scheduled to meet in London on Monday to discuss the Hamas victory and what it means for the Quartet's road map peace plan.

Hamas won 76 of 132 seats in parliament on Wednesday, delivering a crushing defeat to the ruling Fatah party of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, which won just 43 seats.

Recognized as a terror group by the U.S. and the E.U., Hamas has said it has no intention of negotiating a final settlement with Israel, whose destruction it advocates. There are no signs that Hamas intends to moderate its position following the election.

"It creates a new situation. We have to deal with it," said Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner on Friday.

"First of all, the situation demands action by the Palestinian Authority, which committed itself when it decided to go to elections to disarm the various terrorist organizations," said Pazner.

That commitment was made to the U.S., Europe and the United Nations, he said, in the context of the road map peace plan. (The first phase of the plan calls for the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure.)

Abbas said that after the elections he would disarm the various terrorist organizations. Israel wants to see the international community put pressure on Abbas to fulfill those commitments, said Pazner.

There has been no indication yet that Abbas intends to disarm Hamas, but the P.A. leader said on Thursday that he remains committed to the negotiating process with Israel

"I am committed to implementing the program on which you elected me a year ago," Abbas said in a televised speech. "It is a program based on negotiations and peaceful settlement with Israel."

But Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would not negotiate with a government that includes members of a terrorist organization.

"Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian administration if its members include an armed terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel," Olmert's office said in a statement late Thursday. Israel will continue to fight terrorism "with a heavy hand," the statement said.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, the senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said there is no "peace process" and Hamas would not "mislead our people to tell them we are waiting, meeting, for a peace process that is nothing."

The Quartet issued a statement late Thursday congratulating Abbas and the Palestinian people for the success of their elections but calling on Hamas -- though not by name -- to renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist.

"The Quartet reiterates its view that there is a fundamental contradiction between armed group and militia activities and the building of a democratic state. A two-state solution to the conflict requires all participants in the democratic process to renounce violence and terror, accept Israel's right to exist, and disarm, as outlined in the Roadmap," the statement said.

President Bush also said that if a party's platform was "the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner for peace."

There were signs that Hamas might come under pressure from other sides but it was not clear what impact it would have on the group.

Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa said on Friday that Hamas would have to accept the Beirut initiative, which calls for all Arab states to recognize the State of Israel, media reports said.

Israel's Finance Ministry Director General Yossi Bachar suggested that Israel might withhold the value added tax and customs revenues it collects and transfers to the P.A.

Palestinian Economy Minister Mazen Sonqrot warned that the P.A. could be in trouble as soon as next week if Israel failed to hand over the tens of millions of dollars it transfers each month. Those funds are used to pay the salaries of 135,000 Palestinians, and if they go unpaid it could incite violence, radio reports said.

But according to Israel Radio, Israel will continue to transfer those funds for the time being.

'Profound problem'

Israelis on Friday were pondering the future of their relationship with their Palestinian neighbor and "peace partner," now that Hamas is part of the mix.

It is widely believed that while organizations like Hamas carried out terror attacks, most Palestinian people wanted peace.

"There is a profound problem in Palestinian society if they elected an organization [that wants the destruction of the State of Israel]," said Pazner.

"Even though Palestinian spokesmen often declare that the populace in the territories prefers Hamas because it has had enough of the corruption of the long-time rule of the Fatah movement, there is nothing to be relieved about," the leftwing daily Ha'aretz said in an editorial on its website on Friday.

Hamas' political positions are well known: "not recognizing Israel and favoring a violent struggle against the Jewish state, without compromise, until it is destroyed," the daily wrote.

The website of the rightwing Arutz-7 news service said the strong support for Hamas showed not only that a majority of Palestinians support Hamas' platform "committed to maintaining an armed struggle against Israel" but also that "Palestinians are not put off by Hamas' violent track record, nor by the Israeli reprisals that follow, nor by the relative lawlessness that prevails in Hamas' strongholds.

"In effect, the voting Arab public has used democracy against the Western world to show that Islamic fundamentalism and chaotic rule are the Palestinian's preferred system of government," the Arutz-7 website said.

One Hebrew language radio broadcaster noted an irony in the situation: On the one hand, he said on Friday, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and formed a new political party, Kadima, which means "forward" in Hebrew. On the other hand, the Palestinians chose a political party that takes them backwards. Hamas has said it wants to throw the Jews into the sea.

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