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Top Israeli Officials Discuss Sanctions Against Hamas

Top Israeli officials have discussed sanctions against the Palestinians, as the Islamic militant group Hamas prepares to take power. But Hamas is maintaining a hard line that could cost the Palestinian people dearly.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened top Cabinet ministers to discuss a series of crippling economic sanctions aimed at tightening the noose around Hamas. The Hamas-led Palestinian parliament will be sworn in on Saturday, and the Israeli Cabinet will vote on the measures Sunday.

Under the plan, Israel would ban 4,000 Palestinian workers and restrict the flow of goods from the Gaza Strip into Israel. These sanctions, which might be imposed next week, would be a major blow to the impoverished Palestinian population in Gaza. The Israeli market is the biggest for the coastal strip and most of Gaza's exports to the rest of the world go through Israeli ports.

Hamas is responsible for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis. And Mr. Olmert says Israel's message is clear.

"We will not negotiate and we will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that will be dominated wholly or partly by a terrorist organization," said Olmert.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also putting pressure on Hamas, saying the group must form a government that recognizes previous peace agreements with Israel. That would mean renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist, but Hamas hasn't budged.

"I don't expect soon to see official Hamas compliance with these pressures on them," said Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser.

Hamas describes the Israeli sanctions as collective punishment and says it won't give in to blackmail. The group remains committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.