(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
At the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday, 29 January 2006):
1. OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yedlin, ISA Director Yuval Diskin, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed ministers on the results of the recent Palestinian Authority (PA) elections. They discussed the current state of relations between Fatah and Hamas, and within Fatah, given the results of the elections.
Defense Minister Mofaz stressed that Hamas's sweeping victory has created a new and complex reality in the PA with the potential for additional developments both within Fatah and Hamas, and in general Palestinian affairs - a reality which compels Israel to face several challenges that call for caution and sagacity in the coming period as well as determination, awareness, and a readiness to cope with a possible escalation.
It was pointed out that, even though Hamas won the largest number of votes, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is still a key element in the PA, and his decisions regarding Hamas and the Palestinian security services and constitution will greatly influence the nature of Palestinian affairs. It seems that Hamas needs time to make decisions and prepare to deal with the election results, which means that it will be responsible for governing. Hamas has taken care to show national responsibility since the election results were published and it has called on Fatah to cooperate and join a coalition government.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made it clear that the international community recognizes the legitimacy of the elections, as part of the democratic process in which the Palestinians expressed their views. This fact makes it difficult for leaders to unequivocally criticize the results; however, the need to both recognize Israel's right to exist and to abandon the path of violence and terrorism is being emphasized. In most statements, world leaders are ruling out the possibility of Hamas participating in the diplomatic process under current conditions, i.e. without amending its covenant or changing its leadership. The foreign minister said that the PA elections will be discussed tomorrow by the Quartet and by the European Union (EU), as well as during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Israel and the PA. Within Hamas, there is increasing tension on issues related to accepting government responsibility such as the agreements with Israel, honoring international agreements, the continuation of external financial assistance, the continuation of terrorism, and the various demands and conditions being set by international elements.
Foreign Minister Livni detailed reactions in the Arab world to Hamas's victory. Arab League Secy.-Gen. Amr Mousa said that Hamas would have to accept the Beirut initiative, which includes full recognition of Israel. Fatah is licking its wounds and is establishing bodies to learn the lessons of its defeat; the Fatah Central Committee decided not to join a unity government with Hamas. There have been calls for Abu Mazen's resignation.
Livni discussed reactions in the international community and referred to the Quartet statement. She emphasized that she made it clear to her European colleagues that there must be a separation between the need to support democratic elections and the results of those elections.
Livni discussed the US reaction to the elections, as seen in remarks by US President George Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and those of the EU.
Acting Prime Minister Olmert said: "As soon as the results of the PA elections became known, I consulted with various elements in order to analyze the new situation that has been created. Following these consultations, we announced that the State of Israel will not negotiate with any Palestinian administration even part of which is composed of an armed terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. This position has won admiration in both Israel and around the world and to the best of our knowledge, it has also met with the widespread agreement and understanding of almost all international elements. At the same time, we announced that Israel would continue to act against terrorism everywhere, at anytime; there is no intention to compromise on these matters.
"I must point out that in these consultations there was reference to our intelligence assessments regarding the results of the elections, whether there were gaps between the assessments and the reality. I must point out that at no stage, in any form, was anybody in the intelligence community reprimanded. This is baseless. I, and the entire government, have unreserved confidence in the military establishment, in the military leadership, in Chief-of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Halutz and in the IDF Intelligence Branch for its outstanding work; in the ISA, for its outstanding work, the benefits of which we enjoy every day. It is fitting to say this and I ask that this matter not be dealt with so as not to afford anyone an opportunity to analyze what did not happen.
"We decided that Foreign Minister Livni would be in contact with the international community ahead of this week's Quartet and EU foreign ministers meetings in order to deliver Israel's messages and form a unified diplomatic front. Over the weekend, I spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and I said that Israel would not have any dialogue with Hamas or the PA before it and its chairman meet the following terms:
The disarming of the terrorist organizations and the renunciation of the path of terrorism, recognition of the existence of the State of Israel, cancellation of the Hamas Covenant that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, and recognition of all of the agreements and understandings that have been signed and entered into between Israel and the PA.
"The positions of the leaders with whom we spoke and our position were identical. They said that, for their part, they would continue not to have any contacts with Hamas in its current format, or with the PA headed by Abu Mazen, without the fulfillment of these terms. We will continue to the diplomatic campaign to broaden the understandings with the international community. This evening, I will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and I will discuss this issue with her."
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued the following statement:
"A. The State of Israel upholds the Roadmap and continues to demand that PA Chairman Abu Mazen carry out the commitment to dismantle all terrorist organizations and their infrastructures.
"B. The State of Israel will not conduct any negotiations with any Palestinian administration even part of which is composed of an armed terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.
"C. Israel will continue to act against the terrorist organizations wherever necessary.
"D. The State of Israel will work with the international community so that no dialogue is conducted with Hamas or with the PA before it and its chairman fulfill the following terms:
"i) The terrorist organizations are disarmed and the path of terrorism is abandoned;
"ii) The existence of the State of Israel is recognized and the Hamas Covenant, which calls for Israel's destruction, is annulled;
"iii) All agreements and understandings that were signed and entered into between Israel and the PA are recognized.
"E. In the coming days, I will consult regarding the various issues on the agenda with the Palestinians following the results of the elections, such as financial transfers, passage of Palestinian MPs between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, etc. After consulting with all of the relevant bodies, we will formulate decisions and act accordingly."
2. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert eulogized the late kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kedourie: "Last night leading kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kedourie passed away. His funeral will be held shortly in Jerusalem. Many Israelis - from right and left, religious and secular - will accompany Rabbi Kedourie - who, for so many years, taught the hidden Torah and kabbalistic wisdom - on his final journey. The government expresses its sorrow over his passing and sends its condolences to his many students, admirers and family members."
3. The cabinet decided to limit the applicability of certain clauses in the 1959 Civil Service law (Appointments) to certain positions in the public broadcasting field.
4. The cabinet decided to change its previous decisions regarding the recommendations of the interim report of the State Commission of Inquiry Regarding Structural Safety and Public Facilities (the Ziller report regarding the 'Pal-Kal' construction method).
5. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra and the director-general of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority briefed ministers on the number of visitors at INNPPA sites in 2005 and on the authority's intentions to increase the number of visitors.