- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

U.S. officials said yesterday that they want the future Hamas-led Cabinet to “succeed” and denied any intention of “thwarting the will” of the Palestinian people by undermining their legitimately elected government.

Both U.S. and Israeli officials said they were resigned to the fact that the new Palestinian legislature, expected to convene on the weekend, will elect a Hamas-dominated government.

But Hamas, which won 74 out of 132 seats in elections on Jan. 25, accused the U.S. and Israel of plotting to destabilize the future government, as reported yesterday by the New York Times.

“The United States, which claims herself to be the mother of democracy, must respect the election results and the will of the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri.

U.S. and Israeli officials rejected the accusations that they are seeking to bring down the incoming government and force new elections, saying they trust the Palestinian people to take Hamas to task if it does not govern democratically and peacefully.

“We have no intention of denying the Palestinian people the opportunity to have a government they voted for in a democratic election,” a senior U.S. official said.

“There’s no plot,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “The issue that this goes to is the choice that Hamas has before it. If it wants to realize better relations with the international community, then Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel and disarm.”

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack said, “The conversations that we are having with the Israeli government are the same conversations we are having with other members of the international community.”

U.S. officials said they relied on their public comments to send a message to Hamas because they do not deal directly with the group, which the United States, Israel and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

“The strategy is public,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in Jerusalem. “There is nothing secret about it. It’s to present the incoming Palestinian leadership with a clear choice: conform to international norms of behavior, recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terrorism and accept signed agreements” by the Palestinian Authority.

Various anonymous Israeli officials were quoted by the Israeli press and international wire service reports yesterday as saying that their strategy was to starve the Hamas government and engineer its demise.

Both U.S. and Israeli official spokesmen said that was not the policy of their governments.

“We can’t send them assistance because our laws and policies don’t allow financing a terrorist organization,” the senior U.S. official said.

“But if someone else wants to give them money, that’s between them and Hamas,” he said, referring to current and potential Arab donors, although he urged other countries to condition their assistance on the West’s principles.

Those requirements, laid out by the Middle East Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — last month, are denouncing violence, recognizing the Jewish state and adopting the Palestinian Authority’s commitments.

“We want the new government to succeed in serving the Palestinian people and making peace with Israel,” the U.S. official said.

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper quoted security sources as saying that measures such as closing the passages between the Gaza Strip and Israel, which would block access of thousands of Palestinian workers, were being discussed.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that if the 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.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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