Twenty-seven US Senators appealed on Friday to President Barack Obama to halt
funding to a unified Fatah-Hamas government that refuses to renounce terrorism
or recognize Israel.
“It is imperative for you to make clear to [Palestinian Authority] President
[Mahmoud] Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government
with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United
States, including its receipt of US aid,” the senators said in a letter they
sent to Obama. The letter, signed by mostly Democratic senators, was organized
by Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Robert Casey of
Obama chooses smart power
'Hamas to consult factions on moves toward Israel'
“As you are aware, US law prohibited aid from being
provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless the government
and all its members have publicly committed to the Quartet principles,” the
Leading members of the House of Representatives, such as
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, have similarly spoken out.
But the Obama administration has
taken no action on the matter to date.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and
the European Union say that until more is known about the nature of the PA
government to be formed, funding should continue as usual.
Israel, as of
Saturday night, has refused to agree to a request by UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-Moon to continue to transfer tax funds to the PA.
The request came
during a phone call on Friday between Ban and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process and the Fatah- Hamas
Israel last week suspended the transfer of tax funds it
collects on behalf of the PA, in response to the Palestinian unity
No cabinet decision has yet been made on the issue.
government has asked the international community to similarly suspend its
financing of the PA until it is certain that the money will not end up in the
hands of Hamas.
As of Saturday night, the Prime Minister’s Office had not
publicly responded to Ban’s request.
But on Friday, Finance Minister
Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that the government had no intention of handing
money over to Hamas.
“It was important to send a clear red warning to the Palestinian Authority and also to the world that we cannot countenance a
terrorist government that on one hand talks about peace, and on the other hands
continues, with the money that we transfer to it, to buy missiles and to rearm,”
In Norway, visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon
called on its government to suspend funding to the PA, out of fear that it would
be used to harm innocent Israeli civilians.
Netanyahu made similar
requests while in Britain and France last week.
But the government’s
calls to suspend funding to the PA has fallen on deaf ears.
Commission on Friday approved the transfer of 85 million euros to the PA at the
request of its Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
He had made the request for
urgent financial assistance before the deal was reached with Hamas.
the European Commission approved the matter two days after Fatah and Hamas
signed their unity agreement.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said on Friday that the funding decision “renews our commitment to support the
most vulnerable among Palestinians, and is part of our support to the
Palestinian Authority’s institution-building program, contributing to the
salaries and pensions of PA civil servants who work in health and education. It
is important that access to essential public services remains uninterrupted and
the right to social services is respected.”
She spoke despite statements
by leaders from the EU, the US and even Ban that any new PA government would
have to conform to the three Quartet principles: renounce terrorism, recognize
Israel and abide by past agreements.
Hamas has refused to accept these
While Europe and the international community continue to send
strong messages to the Palestinians about their expectations regarding its new
government, in practice they have continued business as usual, including their
expectations that Netanyahu continue to take bold moves for peace.
told Netanyahu in their conversation that the impasse between Israel and the
Palestinians must be overcome. “Continued drifting” would not serve the interest
of both parties, he said.
Ban urged Netanyahu to make “decisive moves”
toward a historic agreement with the Palestinians.
Ban said that the UN
had long urged Fatah and Hamas to reconcile, under the continued leadership of
Abbas and within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet’s
Unity is a process that is just beginning now, and it would
be best to assess it as it moves forward, Ban said.
Speaking in Beersheba
on Saturday night, Deputy Premier Moshe Ya’alon attacked the very notion of
“Let’s not kid ourselves, that we are talking
about a true reconciliation. It’s a misinterpretation. I do not
buy it. Do we think that Abu Mazen [Abbas] will really empty Gaza of missiles
and rockets or that he will allow Hamas to enter Judea and Samaria?” he
"Hamas agreed to the unity deal from a position of weakness,
because it is struggling in Gaza," Ya’alon said. "But make no mistake, its true
objective is to establish an Islamic Palestinian state from the river to the
Since the announcement of the unity deal, Netanyahu has been clear
that as long as Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction, it can not be a
partner to peace.
He said this to international leaders, including French
President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, during
visits he made to Paris and London last week.
In France on Friday
morning, Netanyahu met with Prime Minister François Fillon and the two men
agreed that France would initiate a government-to-government program with
Israel, similar to those it has with Italy and Germany.
program, Fillon will come to Israel with a delegation of senior cabinet
The two men also discussed France’s participation in a railway
line to be built from Ashdod to Eilat.
Netanyahu will visit the US later
this month. He will meet with President Barack Obama on May 20 and address a
joint session of Congress four days later.
Netanyahu is also considering
a visit to Canada, but no date has been set for the trip and it is unclear if he
would stop there on this way to or from the US.
On Thursday, Netanyahu
called Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to congratulate him on his
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.