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ISOLATING HAMAS

Amos Gilad: 'Israel Agrees To The Supply Of Limited Quantities Of Light Weapons And Ammunition To Palestinian President Abbas To Help Cope With Hamas'

'Abbas Taking Courageous Step In Calling For National Referendum If Hamas Rejects Israel on 1967 border'

Moves Afloat To Isolate Hamas, After Olmert's Visit to Washington

Mahmoud Abbas

Are Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas now engaged in trying to rebuild some mutual confidence? It looks that way after Olmert's visit to Washington and his talks with President Bush and other administration officials.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Israel agrees to the supply of limited amount of light weapons and ammunition to Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas in order to cope with Hamas. It is only one of several surprise moves by both Israel and Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas to isolate the ruling Hamas party.

The step, approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, is a major shift in Israeli policy. It signals that Olmert means business about his pledge in Washington to 'extend his hand in peace toward Abbas and the Palestinians'. Olmert apparently informed Bush about his decision when he met privately with Bush in the White House.

Amos Gilad

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defense official told Israel Radio, 'The arms supply will bolster Abbas in carrying out his brave decision to confront Hamas'. Abbas has apparently thrown down the gauntlet to Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh who led Hamas to power in the January election. Abbas has called for a national referendum on a Palestinian state to be established on the 1967 line if Hamas fails to accept his proposal within ten days. Gilad also said Abbas needs more weapons to restore order in the Palestinian areas. And he added: 'I'm not saying Abbas's life is in danger. Our step is part of a broad policy to help Abbas cope with those who are turning the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist entity'. The fact is that not only have terrorists threatened to assassinate Abbas; one of his loyal military commanders was killed this week. Ten Palestinians died in the internal clashes between Fatah lead by Abbas and Haniyeh's Hamas.

In the match-up, the radical terror groups of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have no shortage of weapons and explosives. The IDF has revealed they have smuggled some six and a half tons of TNT and weapons into the Gaza Strip since Israeli troops and settlers withdrew last September. The arms will reportedly be supplied by Jordan or Egypt.

Likud Knesset Member Yuval Steinitz calls the Israeli decision an act of folly. Steinitz, the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee charges: 'Mahmoud Abbas does not lack weapons; he lacks the determination to wage war against the terrorists'. In his view, Israel's step will lend legitimacy to those who want to transfer foreign funding to the Palestinian Authority.Step#2: After his successful trip to Washington, Olmert can be expected to follow up with an invitation to meet Abbas. Defense Minister Peretz (of Labor) is also champing at the bit to start dismantling illegal outpost on the West Bank and this could also be in the pipeline.

It appears then that the Prime Minister is making an honest effort to jump-start the Roadmap with the Palestinians. However, Hamas that calls for Israel's destruction is still ruling the Palestinian roost. Despite the various measures to rebuild some mutual confidence, Olmert says will not budge from his bottom line: Hamas must renounce terrorism, accept Israel and honor prior agreements with the Jewish state.

David Essing

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