WASHINGTON - "Severe consequences" await a unified Fatah-Hamas government, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez warned on Monday, referring to the new Palestinian Authority as a "two-headed dragon" in violation of US aid requirements.
"Palestinians must choose between peace with Israel as a Jewish state and a marriage with Hamas, a terrorist organization," Menendez (D-NJ) told a gathering of the American Jewish Committee in New Jersey, adding that the marriage "will have severe consequences."
"US law is explicit on this," he added. "We will not provide assistance to a Palestinian government in which Hamas has a role and exercises 'undue influence.'"
Last week, hours after a reconciliation government was formed in a ceremony in Ramallah, the State Department declared its intent to continue aid to the PA, noting that the new cabinet retained many of the same technocratic officials unaffiliated with either party.
The US position on Hamas remains unchanged, the Obama administration added: US officials say they will continue monitoring the actions of the new government, which has vowed to recognize Israel, renounce violence and uphold all previous agreements with the Israeli state.
Financial assistance to the PA from the US, which amounts to roughly $500 million, has already been appropriated by Congress for the current fiscal year. Roughly $200 million in direct budgetary assistance has yet to be obligated; the State Department, traditionally, notifies the direction of these funds to Congress before a transfer.
The State Department has referred to the new PA cabinet as an "interim body," noting that its primary goal is to set up long-delayed elections.
"I say this can only have a very short window," said Menendez. "Whatever its alleged role, Hamas will wield power and influence, and Hamas, under our law, is a terrorist organization opposed to a two-state agreement and supported by Iran."