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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. HAMAS LEADER TELLS CNN CONDITIONS FOR ‘HUDNA’… Hamas leader and spokesman Mahmoud A-Zahhar told CNN on Monday that his organization would consider a long-term “hudna” [1] if Israel accepts a series of conditions including abandoning all post-1967 land and releasing all Palestinian prisoners it holds. [A ‘hudna’ is a unilateral strategic cease-fire that can be ended at any time by the party initiating it. It is often misrepresented in media as a ‘cease-fire.’ – ed.] In an interview broadcast on Monday, A-Zahhar said the Israelis had to “stop their aggression” and create a geographic link between the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Hamas leader said that, “at that time, with assurance from other sides, we are going to accept to establish our independent state.” He said Israel’s “real intention” will be judged over a period of between one and fifteen years. On Sunday, another Hamas spokesman, Mousa Abu-Marzouq, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, was quoted by a newspaper affiliated with the Fatah faction that Hamas will not oppose Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas if he pursues negotiations with Israel.

2. ISRAEL WILL WITHHOLD THIS MONTH’S TAX TRANSFER TO THE PALESTINIANS… Israel will not transfer to the Palestinian Authority its monthlly share of taxes collected. Under terms of agreements with the Palestinians, Israel pays to the P.A. a share of tax revenue it collects each month. But with the sweeping Hamas victory in the legislative elections, Israeli leadership fears the money will be used to fund terrorism. Calls to hold up payments to the P.A. were first made by Likud party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and more recently finance minister. Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the decision to withhold the funds, saying that, “We are not prepared in any way or shape [for] money which the Israeli government transfers to come under control of murderous elements who are interested in the destruction of Israel.” The decision is not unanimous among Israeli leaders. Some, particularly those aligned with the defense establishment, fear that the Palestinian Authority could collapse if it does not receive the money and then the additional burdens of security considerations relative to the ensuing chaos and providing basic services to the population will fall to Israel.

3. NEW GERMAN GOVERNMENT REAFFIRMS PREDECESSOR’S SALE OF SUBS TO ISRAEL AT DEEP DISCOUNT… While newly-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a defense official back home said in a radio interview that the new government will stand by its predecessor’s decision to sell two Dolphin class submarines to Israel and help with financing. The deal was set on former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s last day in office. The defense ministry official in charge of armaments said, “The sole reason for [the sale and its special terms] is Germany’s special obligation to help secure the existence of the state of Israel.” The deal is worth $1.22 billion, of which Germany will pay one third, not to exceed $403 million. On Monday, Chancellor Merkel will meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas in Ramallah. Merkel has angered Hamas leaders by refusing to meet with any Hamas member.

4. SENIOR REPUBLICANS BACK FREEZE ON AID TO HAMAS-LED P.A… Senior Republicans are lining up to express support for a freeze on U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority led by Hamas. Although Hamas won a sweeping victory in last week’s legislative election and will control a majority in the parliament, it remains on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. On Sunday, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) said in a television interview that, “Money will not flow to that government.” Speaking on another network, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he and other senators backed the White House decision to cut aid until Hamas dismantles its armed units and acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. The sentiment is gaining bi-partisan support as well. Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said that President Bush’s efforts to hold back money from a Hamas-led government should be supported. Senator Barack Ubama (R-Ill), a rising star in the Democratic Party who recently returned from a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, also expressed support for President Bush’s intent to hold back aid.