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Israel warns Abbas about Hamas

Olmert advises Palestinian leader to take 'serious action'
Ehud Olmert: Israel won't negotiate with the Palestinian Authority if Hamas gains control.


United States

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to take action to disarm Hamas before it gains control of the Palestinian government.

Otherwise, Olmert said, the Jewish state will "review all of our contacts" with the government.

"[Abbas] knows that while we respect him and we are prepared to deal with him ... we will not be able to continue the same pattern of relations if he will choose to surrender to the existence of a terrorist organization rather than to act in order to disarm it and change its nature," Olmert said Tuesday in a speech before the leaders of American-Jewish organizations.

The United States, the European Union and Israel classify Hamas as a terrorist organization and have threatened to halt aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas' victory in a parliamentary vote last month.

Olmert reiterated Israel's refusal to negotiate with Hamas.

"I, here on behalf of the government of Israel, pledge to you that we will not negotiate and we will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that will be dominated, wholly or partly, by a terrorist organization," he said.

Olmert said Abbas' government faces a "serious choice about their priorities."

"Do they want to become part of a terrorist organization or do they want, even at this late stage, to take serious action in order to, once and for all, disarm the terrorist organization?" he asked.

Responding to published reports, spokesmen for both the White House and the U.S. State Department on Tuesday denied the existence of a "plot" to destabilize the Palestinian government.

They were reacting to a report in Tuesday's New York Times in which the newspaper, citing Israeli officials and Western diplomats it did not identify, said the United States and Israel are talking about methods to weaken the Palestinian government so that Hamas will falter and force new elections.

"Bottom line is that there is no U.S.-Israeli plan, project, plot, conspiracy to destabilize or undermine a future Palestinian government," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Saying U.S. financial assistance for Palestinians is under review, McCormack pushed for Hamas to meet conditions laid out earlier this month by the United States, Russia, the U.N. and European Union.

The so-called Mideast Quartet issued a statement calling on Hamas to recognize Israel, denounce violence and terrorism and disband its militias. (Full story)

"If a new Palestinian government does not meet the requirements as laid out by the international community, then I think there certainly will be reaction from the international community concerning assistance to that new government," said McCormack.

Sharon's top aide, Ra'anan Gissin, said Tuesday "there's no need for any such conspiracy."

"Because, I think, if Hamas continues in its present course, it will do itself in, it itself will destabilize the Palestinian government," Gissin told CNN.

A newly elected Hamas legislator said Tuesday that the international community would achieve more by cooperating with Hamas than by isolating it.

The world "has to respect" democracy, Mahmoud Ramahi told CNN, "and we are the result of this democracy."

"We are a moderate people, and we are now representing the majority of Palestinian people," he said. "We are able to sit with the United States and the Europeans and to discuss and reach a compromise."

But he warned, "If they continue to ignore us in the future, there will be extremists."

Concern over Iran

Olmert said Israel also faces a threat from Iran and called for "concrete, joint action by the international community" to stop the Islamic state from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he said, "No one can ignore the fact that this is the same leader of the same country which, at the same time when he is talking about the liquidation of the state of Israel, is also fighting against the whole world, almost, in order to possess nonconventional capabilities that are aimed against the state of Israel."

Olmert said Ahmadinejad is "obsessed with anti-Semitic hatred."

"I don't remember that there was any leader of a major country in the last few years who had this type of aggression and of hatred as the new president of Iran," he said.

Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and labeled the Holocaust a myth.

Iran officially resumed nuclear work at its Natanz facility Tuesday, a diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said. (Full story)

Western nations successfully pushed for Iran to be reported to the Security Council last week for failing to convince the world its atomic scientists were working exclusively on power stations, and not on bombs.

Olmert took the helm of the Israeli government in January after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke. Sharon has remained in a coma and on Saturday was rushed into emergency surgery to remove about a third of his colon.

On Tuesday, Sharon's son, Omri, was sentenced to nine months in prison and given a $64,000 fine for his role in a campaign fundraising scandal, said his attorney, Navit Negev. (Full story)

Gaza explosions

Meanwhile, explosions heard Tuesday in northern Gaza came from Israeli artillery fire, according to Palestinian security sources and the Israeli army.

The Israeli army said it was firing artillery at an area it said was used by Palestinians to fire rockets at Israel.

The Palestinians said the source of the explosions was Israeli tank shells fired at the area.

The Israeli army said that Palestinians launched two Qassam rockets into Israel on Tuesday -- one landing in an open field in southern Israel and the other hitting a southern industrial zone.

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