No big surprise. Congress is supporting the Israeli inflexibility about the Palestinian unity deal even as the White House is being cautious, and Israeli P.M. Netanyahu is flipping out.
Appreciate the strong statements today from both sides of the aisle in Congress against the new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government
— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) June 3, 2014
Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip:
Liberal Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made much the same statement when the deal was first announced.
The Israel lobby group AIPAC is telling the Congress to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority:
The embrace of the notorious Islamist terrorist organization is a disturbing setback to peace…
U.S. law is clear – no funds can be provided to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence. We now urge Congress to conduct a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented.
But the White House is taking a wait-and-see approach and saying approving things about the nature of the new government. From the State Department briefing yesterday, here’s the US government position, stated by Jen Psaki (at 32:00 or so above):
At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas. Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions. Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we’ll be watching closely to ensure that it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiterated today.
Does that mean that you intend to continue disbursing U.S. foreign assistance?
It does, but we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly.
John Kerry advised Netanyahu of the U.S. position with a phone call. AP’s Matt Lee quipped:
“I’m surprised we didn’t hear the yelling from Jerusalem here in Washington.”
Now here is some of Netanyahu’s bloodcurdling tweeting on the subject:
PM Netanyahu: I call the intl community not to run to recognize the Palestinian government of which Hamas is a part and which rests on Hamas — Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 1, 2014
“Can you believe these people denouncing the unity government and saying the US should defund the PA when the Israeli government contains major officials who want to annex the West Bank?” writes a friend. J St is also walking on egg shells on this issue.
Here is the J Street statement, focused principally on Israel’s security, as usual. Excerpt:
J Street condemns the recent statement by Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza Ismael Haniyeh that, “Palestinian reconciliation aims to unite the Palestinian people against the prime enemy, the Zionist enemy. It aims to pursue the choice of resistance and steadfastness.”
Neither Israel nor the United States can do business with Hamas until it accepts Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence.
[But J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said,] “It would be a mistake for either the United States or Israel to take rash punitive actions against the Palestinians that will only hurt their own interests and set back hopes of resuming peace negotiations.”
Ben–Ami added: “Israelis have benefited enormously from the day-to-day cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces and other official contacts and this should not be sacrificed. The last thing anyone needs to do is rush to cut off aid which could defund Palestinian security forces, destabilize the fragile Palestinian economy and lead to an increase in instability in the West Bank.”