Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says Israel will not interfere with Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, but also does not want to see radical factions like Hamas in a new parliament. He spoke after Washington talks Wednesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Israel has mounted a military offensive including a resumption of targeted killings of Palestinian militants after a suicide bomber killed several Israelis October 26.
But in a talk with reporters after a more than hour-long meeting with Secretary Rice Wednesday, Mr. Mofaz struck a conciliatory tone.
He said his government wants to work with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas or Abu Mazen, and will not impede the January 25 election, though it also wants Mr. Abbas to live up to summit pledges earlier this year to consolidate power at the expense of the militants. "We will not interfere in the Palestinian election but we don't believe that Hamas should be part of the Palestinian parliament. It is a Palestinian issue. But Abu Mazen said in the Sharm el-Sheikh summit that he will lead the Palestinian Authority to be a one-authority, one-rule and one-gun. And we want that he will achieve these goals, and we will do our best to ease the lives of the Palestinians," he said
Mr. Mofaz said that the Palestinian Authority chief should move to dismantle armed factions before the election, and that Israel would not have any dealings with members of terrorist groups who might be elected to the parliament and become part of a Palestinian government.
Though the United States has in the past criticized targeted killings, and has urged Israel to consider the consequences of its latest retaliatory actions on peace efforts, Mr. Mofaz said the Bush administration clearly upholds its right to self-defense.
"I believe that the U.S. administration, not only in this meeting with Dr. Rice but also in the meetings I had in the past, they believe that we have a right to defend our people. And we are doing it by targeting and arresting member of the Islamic Jihad and other terror groups that are sending suicide bombers to the central cities of the state of Israel and I believe that any country has a right to give the best security to its people," he said.
Mr. Mofaz also met Wednesday with White House National Security Adviser Steven Hadley and is due to meet Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and key members of Congress later in the week.