updated 2/17/2006 10:59:27 AM ET 2006-02-17T15:59:27

Israel’s acting prime minister weighed sanctions Friday against a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority, including barring thousands of Palestinian workers, sealing off the Gaza Strip and formally branding the authority an enemy.

Ehud Olmert was briefed on the proposed sanctions and the Cabinet was to make a final decision on whether to implement them on Sunday, a day after the new Palestinian legislature is installed.

In Gaza, the Islamic militant group’s apparent choice for prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment.

“Our people will not ... kneel before such Israeli measures,” said Haniyeh.

The 46-year-old Haniyeh is a relative moderate and his nomination would be a sign of pragmatism by Hamas leaders. But Haniyeh, who has served as a liaison between Hamas and the outgoing Fatah-led government, said Friday a final decision on the prime minister’s role had not been made yet.

Hamas reaching out to Iran?
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana Friday that Hamas is seeking money and advice from fiercely anti-Israel Iran in the face of growing Israeli and international threats to cut off aid to the Palestinians.

“Hamas makes many efforts to receive money from Iran and also asks the Iranians for instructions how to run the Palestinian Authority according to their world view,” Mofaz told Solana, according to a Mofaz spokeswoman.

Unless Hamas moderates its views, Mofaz said “we need to have a clear and unequivocal policy” against the militants.

Mofaz on Thursday recommended a list of restrictions to be imposed after the start of the Hamas era. Under the plan, Israel would cut off the West Bank from Gaza, keep out workers and halt most funding to Palestinian areas.

Other restrictions under consideration include barring Gazan exports from Israel, the main market for Palestinian goods, and sharply curtailing imports to Gaza, said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the military unit that administers the West Bank.

Bid to get Hamas behind peace
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, will demand that Hamas publicly accept his goal of reaching a peace deal with Israel and recognize past agreements with the Jewish state, officials said.

Israeli leaders have taken a tough line against Hamas since the group won Palestinian legislative elections last month. They have tried to rally international support for isolating Hamas and said there will be no dealings with it until the group changes its ways.

Turkey on Friday rejected Israel’s criticism of a meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

After the Palestinian swearing-in ceremony Saturday, Israel will bar Gaza laborers, stripping about 4,000 Palestinian families of their main source of income, and halt the movement of Palestinian officials between the West Bank and Gaza. The campaign is aimed at isolating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. The Palestinians claim both areas, separated by Israeli territory, for a future state.

Israel will prevent Hamas legislators in Gaza from traveling to Ramallah in the West Bank for the opening of parliament on Saturday, said government spokesman Raanan Gissin.

Blocking access to Israel would be devastating to Gaza. Israel is the largest market for the impoverished coastal strip and most of Gaza’s exports to the rest of the world pass through Israeli ports.

$50 million in leverage
Israel is also considering declaring the Palestinian Authority an enemy, closing the borders and cutting off communication. The government is likely to halt monthly transfers of about $50 million in taxes and customs duties it collects for the Palestinians. The transfers are crucial for the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries to 140,000 government workers.

But Israel has said humanitarian aid would continue.

Israeli critics warn the measures could plunge ordinary Palestinians even deeper into poverty, encouraging extremism and violence.

At the Palestinian parliament session Saturday, Abbas will ask Hamas to form a new Cabinet that recognizes interim peace agreements with Israel and his efforts to reach a permanent settlement, said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a top aide to Abbas.

“Any new government should be a continuation of the previous government,” Abu Rdeneh said. “They have to say this publicly and in writing.”

Once Abbas taps Hamas to form a new Cabinet, it will likely kick off a drawn-out negotiating process. The militants will have five weeks to form the government.

“We are really going to have a showdown and a major crisis,” said Saeb Erekat, a Fatah lawmaker and chief negotiator with Israel.

But Mushir al-Masri, an incoming Hamas legislator, said he expected a compromise.

“I think that always we can find common understandings,” he said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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