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Archive for Monday, April 10, 2006

Israel considers cutting all Hamas ties

April 10, 2006

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— Top Israeli security officials on Sunday recommended cutting all ties with the Hamas-led Palestinian government and ruled out peace talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as long as the Islamic militant group refuses to renounce violence.

The recommendation, which essentially approved what has been Israeli policy since Hamas won elections in January, raised the likelihood that Israel will push forward with acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to impose a border in the West Bank by 2010.

In a statement, the ministers said there will be "no personal boycott" of Abbas, but rejected any substantive negotiations with the Palestinian leader - a moderate who hopes to restart peace talks.

The Israeli Security Cabinet, a small group of top government officials, made the recommendation amid increasing Israeli military pressure on Hamas in response to Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.

Israeli forces pounded suspected launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip with artillery fire on Sunday, killing a Palestinian police officer and wounding 16 people. The Palestinian government called an emergency meeting to discuss the growing tensions.

Israel has refused to deal with Hamas, demanding that it halt violence, recognize Israel and accept previous interim peace agreements. Israel also has suspended the transfer of $55 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinians, dealing a tough blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

Hamas has rejected the ultimatum despite intense international pressure and a growing financial crisis.

The Security Cabinet decision branded the Palestinian Authority a "hostile entity" and said all ties should be cut. Government spokesman Asaf Shariv said relations with Abbas would be limited, and peace talks were out of the question. The recommendations were to be approved by the full Cabinet in a week, he said.

"The Palestinian Authority is one unit and does not have two heads," the statement said, adding that Israel will work to "undermine" the Palestinian government. It also said Israel will boycott diplomats who have contact with Hamas.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for the Palestinian president, said Israel should negotiate with Abbas, who is the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, because Israel signed its agreements with the PLO. Abu Rdeneh said Israel should not "look for any pretext for escaping from negotiating table."

The policy could give more momentum to Olmert, who plans to draw a border in the West Bank unilaterally by 2010 if he believes a peace accord is impossible.

Olmert's Kadima Party won Israeli elections last month, and he is expected to complete formation of a new government supporting his plan in the coming weeks.

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