The US had delivered a major blow to its Israeli ally after announcing that the US government would work with the new Palestinian unity government backed by the Hamas terrorist organization.
The new government, which was sworn in on Monday in Ramallah, will be watched “closely” by the US to ensure that the new government is upholding principles of non-violence. The US said that aid to the Palestinian Authority, in the amount of some $440 million, would not be cut.
Israel has rejected outright the Hamas-backed Palestinian government and has stated that it would not negotiate with the new leadership. Hamas, designated by Israel, the US and the EU as a terrorist organization, has vowed to destroy Israel and refuses to renounce the use of violence and terror.
The stance of the US is in direct conflict with that of Israel, increasing tensions between the two allies. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated on Monday that Washington believes the PA President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”
“With what we know now, we will work with the government,” Psaki stated. She added that the US “will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and if needed we’ll modify our approach.”
She warned that the Obama administration would be “watching carefully to make sure” that the unity government uphold preconditions to continue receiving aid. On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Abbas in a phone call and “expressed concerns about Hamas’s role in any such government.”
The secretary of state called on Abbas and the new government to “commit to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements with it.” Abbas has pledged to uphold the conditions despite Hamas’s refusal to ratify them.
Psaki refused to comment on the possibility of future peace talks, other than saying that “it is ultimately up to the parties…to make the difficult decisions about coming to the negotiating table.”
Hamas, a radical Islamist terror organization, would still be responsible for any rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, Psaki clarified. “We expect the PA to do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza, but we understand that the Gaza Strip is under the control of Hamas.”
Upon the announcement of US support for the unity government, the EU’s top envoy to the US announced that it too was prepared to work with the new Palestinian leadership.
“We never said we would not,” Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said. “It’s a question of substance rather than the question of composition of the government.”
Vale de Almeida said the EU was insisting the new government recognize Israel’s right to exist and negotiate a peace agreement. “We are in favor of Palestinian recognition. We think it’s an important element in the process to bringing a long-term solution – but not at any price. It has to be based on respect for a certain number of values,” he stated.
The Israeli government has come out strongly against the new Palestinian government. Israeli officials criticized the US for backing a government backed by Hamas and said that the US should be urging Abbas to dissolve his agreement with the terror organization.
“We are deeply disappointed by the comments of the State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government. This Palestinian government is a government backed by Hamas, which is a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction,” Israeli officials said.
“If the US administration wanted to advance peace, it should be calling on Abbas to end his pact with Hamas and return to peace talks with Israel,” they added. “Instead, it is enabling Abbas to believe that it is acceptable to form a government with a terrorist organization.”