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Israelis Seek to Isolate Palestinian Authority
The Hamas leadership was scheduled to meet here Sunday with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah's leader. The meeting was postponed, however, due to security risks posed by a Fatah protest, which was also later canceled.
Before a weekly cabinet meeting, where the Hamas victory was the central topic, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "Israel ascribes great importance to the formation of a united international position that will make it clear to the Palestinians that under no circumstances can we either accept nor countenance a PA, part or all of which is composed of an armed organization that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel."
Olmert and the acting foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, have been calling counterparts in Europe and urging them to cut funds to the Palestinian government once Hamas enters. Olmert on Sunday reiterated Israel's demand that before joining the government, Hamas renounce violence, remove from its charter the call for Israel's destruction and disarm its military wing.
"These principles are accepted by most of the international community, and on this matter I do not intend to make any compromises," Olmert said.
Israeli security officials have accused Iran and Syria of sponsoring Hamas, a charge Siyam denied during an interview at his home here. He said the group has a presence in more than 80 countries through the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement founded in Egypt in 1928, of which Hamas is an offshoot.
At a meeting with reporters Sunday, Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet, Israel's security service, said Hamas would have to decide whether to pursue the "Palestinian channel" or the "Iranian channel" in the coming weeks. "If they obey the Iranian channel, they are heading for a cliff and I think that everyone understands what is going to happen," he said. "If they obey the Palestinian channel, they will have to amend the Hamas charter."
Siyam, a former high school science teacher who won a parliamentary seat from Gaza, said: "If the European Union and America cut their aid, according to my estimation, the Arab governments will increase their support. It will be a chance for them to improve their relations with the Palestinian government.
"But Hamas is an independent movement and does not work for any outside agency," he said. "Why does Israel have the right to take America's money and it's not the Palestinians' right to take money from other organizations and institutions?"
Siyam, who will be involved in discussions about the next cabinet, said it was too early to say whether Hamas would participate in the government as leaders of ministries or would support a cabinet of nonpartisan technocrats. Such a composition could allow the Bush administration and the Europeans to continue funding the government, given that Hamas would not be directly managing the ministries, though it would certainly be influencing decisions behind the scenes.
Siyam held out hope that Fatah, which won 45 seats in the election, would join the cabinet to form a national coalition.
"Hamas will make their own government and it will find support among independents and technocrats," said Ahmed Helles, Fatah's general secretary in Gaza. "But we have an interest in showing Hamas make these decisions without any backup."
At a news conference Sunday, members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Fatah, warned party leaders not to support Hamas in government. Some wore masks and carried assault rifles. The threat was clear.
"Anyone who does otherwise will be punished," said the group's spokesman, Abu Mohammed.