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Israel Shooting Embarrasses Palestinians

Hamas militants shot and wounded an Israeli civilian near the main cargo crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Monday, embarrassing the Palestinians' new government and laying bare internal friction that could tear it apart.

Israel swiftly denounced the attack, saying it proved the new governing alliance between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah movement was flouting international demands to disarm, recognize Israel and accept past peace accords with the Jewish state.

The government also said the attack was the direct result of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's call when the new government took power on Saturday that Palestinians have the right to "resistance in all its forms," reports CBS News correspondent Robert Berger.

"This terror attack is precisely what the new Palestinian government refuses to condemn, thus rejecting the conditions placed upon it by the international community," said David Baker, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office.

The Israeli electric company said in a statement that one of its workers was shot and seriously wounded as he was working on a tower near the crossing.

"This is a direct result of the guidelines of this government. We will not recognize or deal with a government that openly supports terror," Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen said.

In other developments:

  • The shooting came as a senior Norwegian diplomat was in Gaza for the first meeting between a high-ranking Western official and Hamas government officials. Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen of Norway said before the attack that he hoped other states would follow his country's lead and recognize the new Palestinian coalition, installed on Saturday.
  • It may say sound odd, reports Berger, but Israel has finally declared the conflict in Lebanon last summer a war. Israel is reluctant to recognize wars it doesn't win. But under pressure from bereaved families, last summer's inconclusive conflict against Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon has been recognized as a war. The issue now is to give the war a name. There are three options: War of the North, Shield of the North War, and The Second Lebanon War. Critics say if Israel had crushed Hezbollah, the war would have been named a long time ago.
  • World leaders of Reform Judaism vowed on Monday to launch a new effort to garner greater support among Israelis — despite what they called continuing discrimination at the hands of the Orthodox religious establishment in Israel. The Orthodox rabbinate in Israel has strenuously resisted inroads by more liberal denominations, refusing to recognize their rulings or conversions as religiously valid.

    Even before Monday's attack, Israel was refusing Israel to deal with the new Palestinian government, reports Berger — and a majority of the Israeli people seemed to agree: A poll found that only 39 percent of Israelis believe Israel should recognize the new Palestinian government, even though it does not recognize the Jewish state.

    "We have every right to say, 'Listen guys, until we have recognition here, we can't sit down and negotiate seriously.' But that doesn't mean that Israel wants chaos on the other side," Israeli analyst Hirsch Goodman said.

    However, an additional 17 percent said their government should engage only Fatah Cabinet ministers, for a total of 56 percent favoring some sort of dialogue with the Palestinian leaders. The poll had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

  • There was no immediate comment about the attack from the Palestinian government. But a confidant of Haniyeh called for an end to violence.

    "Our position is still the same. We are calling for mutual calm, and desire continuous calm," Ghazi Hamad said. A cease-fire between Israel and Gaza has been in effect since late November.

    The new Palestinian information minister, independent Mustafa Barghouti, said the Palestinian goal was a "complete" cease-fire. "We do realize that some actions undermine the duty of the government to release the people from the siege they are suffering," he said, but blamed Israel for the violence.

    The Hamas movement — which includes the group's so-called military wing — has been uncomfortable with concessions its political leaders made to Israel in joining the new coalition, which replaced a government the Islamic group led after sweeping parliamentary elections a year ago.

    In a claim of responsibility, Hamas' military wing called the shooting Monday "a response to continued Zionist aggression."

    "The government's political platform allows resistance in all forms and this is one," said Abu Obeida, a Hamas military wing spokesman.

    The coalition's political platform stopped short of accepting the conditions the international community set for lifting sanctions imposed on the Palestinian government after Hamas took power.

    While the new Palestinian government was lobbying the international community to lift sanctions and restore a billion dollars in annual aid, spokeswoman Eisen said it's a terrorist government and sanctions should remain in place.

    "Israel is being steadfast. We are being steady and we think that the international community will be steady also," Eisen said.

    However, the international consensus may be eroding: two key players, Russia and France, say sanctions should be lifted.

    The platform also refers to resistance "in all forms" to Israeli occupation.

    But the coalition also called for expanding a truce with Israel, and establishing a Palestinian state on lands the Israelis captured in 1967 — in contrast to Hamas' past calls to destroy Israel.

    It pledged to "respect" previous Palestinian agreements with Israel and authorizes moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah to conduct peace talks. Any deal would be submitted to a national referendum.

    Many Palestinians interpret these stipulations as implicit recognition of Israel by Hamas.

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