White House and State Department spokesmen yesterday denied any “plot” to starve a Hamas government of foreign funds and thereby force Palestinians to hold fresh parliamentary polls. While it may be that no such decisions have been taken, the prospect of Hamas sharing power with President Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian Authority does oblige policymakers here, in Israel, Europe, and the Arab world to decide how to cope with the Hamas challenge.

All have a stake in a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Hamas leaders’ programme is to liberate Palestine. However, a coercive cut-off of European and American aid would inflict an intolerable humanitarian calamity on Palestinians who are already suffering enough.

Funds for humanitarian assistance should continue to reach Palestinians. The newly elected government should be made to account for the funds, assuring donors their money will not pay for violence. The donors should follow the lead of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In a meeting with Israel’s defence minister this week, Mubarak said he has told Hamas leaders they must accept previous agreements struck by the PA, recognise Israel’s right to exist, and renounce terrorism. The world can get Hamas to accept these international demands. — The Boston Globe