U.S. official says Hamas-PLO government would prompt aid reassessment

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:10am EDT

Palestinians hold national flags as they celebrate after an announcement of a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City April 23, 2014. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians hold national flags as they celebrate after an announcement of a reconciliation agreement in Gaza City April 23, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States would have to reconsider its assistance to the Palestinians if Islamist group Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization form a government together, a senior U.S. administration official said on Thursday.

Gaza-based Hamas - which is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization - and President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank-based PLO announced a unity pact on Wednesday, complicating U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel that Washington is already struggling to extend past an April 29 deadline.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had warned Abbas against pursuing reconciliation with Hamas, convened his security cabinet to discuss Israel's next moves.

"Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties," the U.S. official said, listing terms Hamas has long rejected.

"If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations above, its policies and actions, and will determine any implications for our assistance based on U.S. law," the official said, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The move, coming after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile after seven years of internal bickering, envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.

However providing U.S. aid to a unity government that includes Hamas would be assistance to a group the United States lists as a terrorist organization.

Both the United States and Israel greeted the announcement of the unity pact with dismay.

Israel, whose government includes ministers opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, canceled a session of talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for Wednesday, and the State Department said the unity move could derail peace efforts.

"We are following reports of Palestinian reconciliation efforts," the U.S. official who spoke on Thursday said.

"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 Palestinian state."

Asked whether the reconciliation moves would incur promised U.S. sanctions, PLO Deputy Secretary Yasser Abed Rabo told Palestinian radio it was too soon to penalize a government that had yet to be formed.

"There's no need for the Americans to get ahead of themselves over this. What happened in Gaza in the last two days is just a first step which we welcome and want to reinforce," he said.

"But this step shouldn't be exaggerated, that an agreement for reconciliation has been completely reached... We need to watch the behavior of Hamas on many details during the coming days and weeks on forming a government and other things."

Hamas, which won a Palestinian election in 2006, wrested control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Abbas in 2007. Questions of sovereignty over the territory, the composition of a unity government and the future of Hamas security forces are main stumbling blocks to a unity government.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and Mark Felsenthal in Washington and Noah Browning in Ramallah; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (24)
WestFlorida wrote:
Who is the “senior administration official” quoted here? Where do they work? How do we know they represent US policy? Or are they just expressing their own view of where things should go? Why don’t you report real news instead of behind-the-scenes sleazy leaks?

Apr 24, 2014 6:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
@WestFlorida, the “Senior Official” is the same “Senior Official” who dictates all US government policy from his office in Tel Aviv. US politicians are just sell-out sock-puppets serving mammon and their foreign master.

Apr 24, 2014 7:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
smartermind wrote:
So the US proves once again that it pays lip service to democracy. Hamas elected to power was proscribed and declared a “terrorist organisation”; The Muslim brotherhood and Morsi, elected to power by a democratic vote was overthrown and the US supports the military dictatorship that has replaced it. The US’s support of the racist apartheid regime in Israel is well-known and legion.

Apr 24, 2014 7:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus