In a major blow to the Israeli government, the US said Monday it would agree to work with the new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government sworn in on Monday, and would also maintain its aid to the Palestinian Authority, reports The Times of Israel.
The US position is in conflict with that of the Israel, which outright rejects the new Hamas-backed Palestinian leadership because Hamas remains committed to destroying Israel and is designated a terrorist organization by both the US and Israel.
The US position also seems to be in conflict with its own earlier statements that it would not “immediately” support the Hamas-backed unity government. Furthermore, in recent weeks, the Americans had indicated that its substantial aid to the Palestinian Authority might be suspended if the PA followed through with its unity government with Hamas.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington believes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”
The new government was formed after reconciliation in April between Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority led to an agreement to form a unity government.
Earlier Monday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the recent developments in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. State Department officials would neither confirm the tone of the conversation nor comment on whether the US administration’s announcement had come as a surprise to the Israeli government.
In perhaps the most serious undermining of Israeli policy, the State Department commented that although the US continues to expect Abbas to uphold his commitment to maintaining security coordination with Israel, Hamas’ support for the current government did not change the American perspective on culpability for rocket attacks launched toward Israeli targets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
“We expect the PA to do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza, but we understand that Gaza Strip is under the control of Hamas,” Psaki explained, excusing in advance PA culpability for terror attacks launched from Gaza toward Israel.
Israeli ministers said they would hold the new government responsible for any rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, in response to the inclusion of the Hamas movement in the new Palestinian cabinet.
Netanyahu and eight top ministers said they would boycott the new Hamas-backed unity government and form a team to “examine courses of action.”
Abbas has pledged that the new administration will abide by recognizing Israel, rejecting violence and abiding by all existing agreements. Hamas, however, has not only yet to ratify those conditions, but has insisted on continuing their commitment to destroy Israel through jihad and refusing to disarm their own military wing.