Israeli officials charged that the United States had sanctioned terrorism after hearing late Monday night that Washington planned to establish ties with the newly sworn-in Fatah-Hamas unity government.
“If the US administration wants to advance peace, it should be calling on [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to end his pact with Hamas and return to peace talks with Israel. Instead it is enabling Abbas to believe that it is acceptable to form a government with a terrorist organization,” Israeli officials said in a sharply worded statement to the media.
Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer posted a message on his Facebook page which said that “with suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office, [the unity government] should not be business as usual.”
Israel had hoped that the US would reject the newly formed interim Palestinian government which was sworn in on Monday at a Ramallah ceremony.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has issued a number of statements in the past week warning the international community that establishing ties with this government supported terrorism.
“The policy has to be against terrorism and against partnership with terrorism,” Netanyahu told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier in the day.
The international community is expected to follow Washington's lead and back the Palestinian unity government.
Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Netanyahu just moments before US State Department Jen Psaki told reporters at the daily briefing in Washington that, “based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government.”
Psaki said the Obama administration has no intention of cutting off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which amounts to roughly $500 million a year – pivotal funding for the cash-strapped organization.
The ministers in the interim Palestinian government “appear to be technocratic,” she said, adding that the US “will be judging this government by its actions.”
Psaki said: “We will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government, and if needed, we will recalibrate our approach.”
The Obama Administration’s stance drives a new diplomatic wedge between Jerusalem and Washington, Israel is particularly concerned by the fact, that the primary objective of this interim government is to prepare for new elections within six months, a move that could put Hamas in power in the West Bank.
But Psaki told reporters in Washington that the US was open to the upcoming Palestinian election process.
“Generally speaking, as a matter of principle, we support democratic, free and fair elections. Our view is it’s too early to speculate on what the outcome will be, and we’ll let events proceed,” Psaki said.
Abbas has promised the US that new government would recognize Israel and renounced violence, just as the former Palestinian Authority had when it was composed solely of members of his Fatah party.
But under the new arrangement, the Hamas organization can still reject Israel and be committed to its destruction, even as it serves in a government that accepts Israel.
Israeli officials said, “We are deeply disappointed by the comments of the State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government. This Palestinian government is a government back by Hamas, which is a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Israel’s security cabinet which met Monday said it planned to hold the new Palestinian unity government responsible “all actions that harm the security of Israel that originate in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. The agreement with Hamas makes Abu Mazen directly responsible for the terrorism emanating from Gaza.”
But at the US State Department briefing, Psaki indicated that the US would not take that same stance.
“President Abbas has consistently upheld his responsibility to maintain security coordination, and he’s publicly stressed his commitment to doing that. We expect him to continue to uphold that commitment,” she said.
But she noted that in spite of the unity government, it was Hamas and not Abbas that controlled Gaza.
“We condemn all rocket attacks from Gaza. We would also expect President Abbas to do so as he has in the past, and we expect the Palestinian Authority to do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza into Israel. But we recognize that Hamas currently controls Gaza, and we’ll be closely monitoring the security situation moving forward,” Psaki said.