The ball is in the Palestinian court, and those who must put it in play are the members of the future Hamas government. Abu Mazen, in this context, is irrelevant.

From interview on Israel Radio (Reshet Bet) – 26 Feb 2006:

Abu Mazen cannot serve as a fig leaf for a terrorist authority. Abu Mazen cannot be the pretty face behind which ugly terror hides. This has been the clear Israeli position since the elections to the Palestinian Council, and the international community must understand that only an unequivocal stand and a very clear demand that Hamas and the future Palestinian government adopt the three conditions is the only course that may lead to a more satisfactory situation….

There is sometimes a tendency to take the easier path, but this does not reflect reality. Since the elections to the Palestinian Council, Hamas holds a majority in the parliament and will form the next Palestinian government. I believe it would be wrong to seek solace in the arms of Abu Mazen as the only legitimate figure. The results of the elections are partly the result of his actions. We seek to confront reality as it is, and we expect the international community to do the same. They have set the same clear, unequivocal conditions which any Palestinian government must accept. The ball is in the Palestinian court, and those who must put it in play are the members of the future Hamas government. Abu Mazen, in this context, is irrelevant."

From interview on Israel television – "A New Evening" with Dan Margolit, 26 Feb 2006:

International aid to the PA:

If any country can be counted upon not to transfer money to a Hamas government, that country is the United States. You have to understand that the United States, in its role as the leader of the international war on terror, has adopted very strict laws that do not allow the transfer of money to a government headed by a terrorist organization, and Hamas is known to be a terrorist organization. At the same time, the Americans, together with the rest of the international community, consider the current administration a transition government and, during this period before the establishment of a Hamas government, they are continuing to transfer money.

We can assume that the international community will so desire to help the Palestinian people that they are liable to be dragged into granting legitimacy to the PA despite its being headed by terrorist organizations. So, I think that as long as the international community can continue to organize humanitarian aid packages for the Palestinians while making it crystal clear that the Palestinian Authority is liable to become a terrorist authority headed by a Hamas government, they will do so.

Hamas doubletalk:

I have no doubt that Hamas, out of a desire for legitimacy and fear that money will not be forthcoming, will be talking right now in terms of peace and friendship. We can assume that it will not organize terrorist attacks at the moment. At the same time, Abu Mazen will try to act as a fig leaf for the PA; he will present himself as legitimate, as "the good guy" in this situation. Our job is to see to it that the international community doesn’t "buy" it, doesn’t embrace Abu Mazen or Hamas’s moderate statements.

The role of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas):

The Americans and the Europeans, even those who are meeting with Hamas, are at pains to clarify that they will insist on the same demands: the rejection of terror and violence, recognition of Israel and adoption of previous agreements.

I am going to Europe in order to bolster this message. I am going to Vienna to talk with the leadership of the EU and to explain to them that sometimes, especially in times like these, anyone who hopes eventually to see something better – not because they support Israel, but because they truly want to see a solution in the foreseeable future – must now take a stronger stand. I think that in the coming days we will see a sincere desire on the part of some of them to put their hopes in a more sympathetic figure such as Abu Mazen. In our view, this is problematic, and it is part of what I am going to tell them.

Israel’s right to self-defense:

When Israel withdrew from Gaza, we retained the right to self-defense. It is not in our interest or our ideology to return to Gaza, and in my opinion we should avoid that situation unless we have no other choice. We definitely do not have an operative plan right now to return to Gaza, and certainly not to reinstate  military rule. On the contrary, Israel withdrew from Gaza in order to disengage from the Palestinians, in order, inter alia, to rid itself of the responsibility for the Palestinian people living there, while maintaining its security. Therefore, as long as we can ensure our security without going inside, in my opinion this is the preferred way. We will only back in only if we have no choice.

Elections do not legitimize terrorism:

In the north, the processes are similar. There was an idea that if terrorist organizations – whether recognized as such, like Hamas, or operating as such, like Hizbullah, which is recognized only by some as a terrorist organization – were allowed to participate in the democratic process, they would go into the elections as a terrorist organization and come out a legitimate party. It didn’t happen in Lebanon with Hizbullah, it didn’t happen with Hamas and it won’t happen.

I think that today there is a process of understanding that it is not enough to allow that kind of organization to participate in the election process; you have to stand firm on the demands to disarm. The claim that we usually hear is that the government is weak – the Lebanese government is weak, Abu Mazen was weak. Our message says that when the leadership is weak, it is especially important for the international community to project a clear position. However, I am certainly concerned, with regard to Hamas as well as Abu Mazen, that there will be a tendency to embrace Abu Mazen. In our view, this would be the wrong thing to do, the wrong response to the situation, and our demand is to avoid it.

From interview on IDF Radio (Galei Tzahal), 27 Feb 2006:

Elections do not legitimize terrorism:

Something that I do not find acceptable and that is not acceptable to anyone in this government, is that when a terrorist organization participates in elections, the elections are seen as a form of whitewashing, from which a legitimate political organization emerges. This is not acceptable to us, and by the way, it is not acceptable to anyone in the world.

There were elections in the Palestinian Authority, and we all know the results. A terror organization now holds a clear majority of the parliament. Hamas is a terror organization that has gained control of the Authority. It is not legitimate for a government to be headed by a terrorist organization, unless they do what the international community demands of them, and accept the conditions set forth by the international community, on Israel’s behalf, which stipulate: stop the terror and violence, recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and recognize previous agreements, which brings us back to stage one of the Roadmap.

The role of Abu Mazen:

Now Abu Mazen is starting a campaign, giving interviews to Israeli television channels, and interviews in English to the world, and trying to say: ignore the facts, ignore what has happened. I am here, and now I want to enter into final status negotiations, which will again shift the blame to Israel, place us in the same situation we were in before, and possibly lead to another round of violence. Here, too, we are not in disagreement with the world. The world is also aware of the fact that it is undesirable to have a Palestinian Authority with two heads, the good guy and the bad guy.

Abu Mazen could have put himself in a much more significant position, could have taken responsibility, among others, for the armed groups in the Palestinian Authority, could have imposed clear-cut conditions and not allowed the establishment of a government that rejects these conditions. At the moment, this is not something that he is doing.

Abu Mazen sought to hold these elections with the participation of the Hamas, claiming that he did not have the legitimacy to fight the terror organizations and to disarm them. The whole idea that he needed to draw strength from the elections was his idea ,and the outcome is now one we have to face. I am not interested in chasing him out. The only issue I am talking about is not wanting to land up in a situation where you have a Hamas-led government on the one hand, and on the other, a front man for the Palestinian Authority, someone who though more moderate, who believes in a two-state solution, believes that terror is not a strategic goal, is powerless to represent this in any meaningful way or to impose it on the Palestinian Authority. And therefore, as I see it, policy formulation cannot include shutting one’s eyes.

International aid to Palestinians:

The organizations in question are not under the control of Abu Mazen. These are voluntary international organizations operating in the territories. Part of the government’s decision that addressed the fact that we, for our part, are not transferring the monies, also stated that we want to maintain reasonable humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian Authority, and therefore, as far as we are concerned, we will also help and enable the international community to transfer money to the Palestinian population in a manner that does not go through a Hamas-led government. Precisely because the Americans are waging an international war on terror, they have passed huge amounts of legislation that do not allow even those who do want to transfer monies to do so if, in the end, such monies are liable to reach the terrorists. Therefore, not only do we see eye to eye with them in this respect, but we are also working today in the Israeli context to ensure that the monies actually go where they were intended.

There is only one issue. From our perspective, we thought that the more relevant date is the actual swearing in date of the parliament, once the Hamas already have a majority. The international community sees the relevant date as the date the government is formed. We will honor their decision, and are currently discussing with them what will happen the day after the government is sworn in.