The US over the weekend rejected Palestinian claims that the Obama administration had accepted the newly unified government between Fatah and Hamas and invited its prime minister to Washington.
Although the unity government won’t formally be announced until Monday, Palestinian media outlets reported that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah – who is expected to head a unity government with Hamas – was invited to Washington for talks with US government officials.
The Palestinians said that the invitation could signal US approval of the unity between Fatah and Hamas.
On Thursday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked Hamdallah to form a unity government with Hamas after the two sides reportedly overcame differences over the identity of the ministers slated to serve in the line-up.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Friday: “There has been no invitation issued to Prime Minister Hamdallah.”
A reporter pushed her on the matter and asked: “So the claim made by this Palestinian official is just plain false?” Psaki answered: “Correct.”
She and US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the US has not recognized the new government and is still waiting for more information on the matter.
“As we have said all along, we will not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with,” Meehan told The Jerusalem Post.
“We have been clear about the principles that must guide a Palestinian government in order for it to play a constructive role in achieving peace and building an independent state,” she said.
“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and oblgations between the parties,” Meehan said.
She said that “President Abbas has been committed to these principles.”
To shore up their claim for recognition, the Palestinians on Thursday said that US President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Abbas affirming Washington’s commitment to reaching a two-state solution. Although the language used did not mention the unity government, it still gave the reader the impression that Washington was willing to work with it.
Several Palestinian news agencies published excerpts from the purported letter.
“As I emphasized during our meeting, the United States remains deeply committed to a negotiated outcome between Palestinians and Israelis that result in an independent, viable and a contiguous Palestinian state living in peace alongside the State of Israel,” Obama reportedly said in his letter. “I am hopeful we can continue to work closely together to achieve this goal and further strengthen the bonds between our two peoples.”
Meehan said in response that “the letter was a standard protocol thank-you letter from the gift exchange during President Abbas’s visit to Washington in March. The letter was not new, and had no language discussing the interim government.