Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel cannot trust a Palestinian leadership in which the Islamic group Hamas has a role, his office said Thursday. Olmert spoke as Palestinians were voting for their legislative council. Hamas and Fatah officials said early Thursday that the militant group had won a majority of seats, though official results weren't expected until later in the day. Exit polls after Wednesday's vote had forecast a narrow Fatah victory. Hamas' participation in the Palestinian government could jeopardize relations with Israel. The group has carried out dozens of deadly suicide bombings in Israel.
"Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming," Olmert told U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden in a meeting Wednesday, according to Olmert's office. "I won't hold negotiations with a government that does not stick to its most basic obligation of fighting terror."
Israel is willing to help the Palestinians and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "a great deal" but only if they crack down on militants, Olmert said. Israel has repeatedly asked Abbas to force Hamas and other militant groups to disarm but Abbas has refused, warning such an act could cause civil war, reports the AP. N.U.