Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu traded blame over the political ascendancy of Hamas. In what Israeli media described as a possible election preview, former premier and current opposition leader Netanyahu said Monday that Prime Minister Olmertâ€™s refusal to reject last weekâ€™s Palestinian Authority power-sharing deal effectively bolstered Hamasâ€™ hard line. “In his stammering weakness and confusion, the prime minister is undermining the State of Israel and, worst of all, he is undermining the walls of isolation that were so diligently built around Hamas,” Netanyahu told reporters. He was referring to assessments that Hamas, now allied with the more moderate Fatah faction, may succeed in softening a Western aid embargo on direct aid to the Palestinian Authority. Olmert, who is to meet next week with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, accused his longtime rival of bolstering Hamas when, as prime minister in 1997, Netanyahu ordered the groupâ€™s founder freed from jail to win the release of two Mossad agents caught in Jordan trying to assassinate a Hamas official.
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