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      Olmert´s Cabinet: No Money to Hamas, But Gates Remain Open

      The Cabinet did not approve all of the defense experts' recommendations for how to deal with the new Hamas Authority - especially that which calls for a ban on entry of workers from Gaza.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 2/19/2006, 2:16 PM / Last Update: 2/19/2006, 10:04 AM

      The defense establishment prepared, on Friday, a series of recommendations for the new situation caused by yesterday's take-over of the PA legislature by Hamas. Olmert and the Cabinet, however, accepted only a water-down version thereof.

      The following measures were approved:

      1. Israel will stop the monthly transfer of tax monies to the PA as soon as the new Hamas government, to be headed by Muhammed Haniye, is sworn in. This is expected to take place in the coming weeks, but it is not clear whether this will be before or after the next scheduled money transfer.

      2. Israel will ask the international community to stop all donations to the PA, as of the swearing-in of the new PA government. However, funding to organizations defined as "humanitarian" will continue.

      3. Israel will prevent the transfer of aid and means to official and unofficial PA military organizations.

      4. Entry of Hamas members to areas controlled by Israel will be restricted.

      5. The security checks of workers and goods entering Israel from Gaza at the Karni and Erez Crossings will be stepped up.

      Nothing was mentioned in today's Cabinet decision of a proposed stop to projects such as the airport and seaport in Gaza.

      The Cabinet comprises only Kadima Party ministers.

      Defense Ministry officials had hoped that the Karni and Erez Crossings - which have suffered many terrorist attacks in the past, and which have been the point of entry for many terrorists - would be closed as early as this morning. PA officials, too, had been originally informed that the crossings would be closed, but later found out the opposite. Some 3-5,000 workers entered today.

      Olmert, addressing the Cabinet today, said, "At this point, there is no possibility of reaching an agreement with the PA - but the sky has not crashed in. We were in the same situation during the days of terrorism with Arafat... Israel will not compromise with terrorism, and will continue fighting it with full force... Israel will not have contacts with a regime in which Hamas is a member."

      Former Education Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) said that Israel must take a much stronger stance against Hamas:
      "We need not have to deliberate every month as to whether to give them money or not. We should say unambiguously that this money goes to Hamas education and organizations, and therefore we are not giving it."

      Livnat noted that the PA has become an enemy entity overnight:
      "Just two days after the Hamas takes over the PA, an official delegation is about to set off for Iran."

      Uzi Landau of the Likud made a pre-election attack on Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:
      "Hamas will send a large bouquet of roses to Olmert as a token of appreciation for his help in their victory in the elections, and for his zig-zag policies."

      Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, congratulated Olmert for his decisions, but said that he should go even further. Lieberman favors closing the gates from Gaza altogether, and cutting off electricity and telephone communication in Gaza.