World Bulletin/News Desk
The United States said on Monday it intends to work with the new Palestinian unity government and will continue to disburse aid to the Palestinian Authority but will carefully monitor its policies.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government on Monday in a reconciliation deal with Hamas.
In its first comment since the government took office, the State Department stressed that it regarded the new Cabinet as made up of technocrats.
"At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily press briefing.
"Based on what we know now we intend to work with this government but will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today," she said, referring to Abbas' commitment to honor past peace deals and the principles underlying the peace process with Israel.
"But we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly," she added.
In a statement to reporters issued after Washington's announcement, an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity said:
"We are deeply disappointed by the State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government."
By law, U.S. aid to the Palestinians may not benefit Hamas, which Washington regards as a terrorist group, "or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence."
Annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians has run at about $500 million in recent years, although it fell to roughly $440 million in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2013, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
U.S. lawmakers want to hold aid
Meanwhile, senior U.S. lawmakers said on Monday Washington should suspend aid to the new unity government until Hamas' commitment to pursuing peace with Israel.
"Funding for the Palestinians is off-the-table until it is clear that the unity government is committed to peace and security," said Republican U.S. Representative Kay Granger of Texas, chairwoman of the House of Representatives State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.
"Hamas, not just members of the new government, must acknowledge Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and adhere to previous international agreements," she said in a statement.
The U.S. Congress, led by Granger's subcommittee and its counterpart in the U.S. Senate, authorizes $500 million in annual aid Washington sends to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian leader Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority is dependent on foreign aid, appeared to be banking on Western acceptance - over Israeli objections - of a 16-member cabinet of what he described as politically unaffiliated technocrats.
Setting a policy in line with U.S. and European Union demands, the Western-backed leader said his administration would continue to honor agreements and principles at the foundation of a peace process with Israel.
But U.S. lawmakers, many of whom are strongly pro-Israel, expressed skepticism.
"The United States is under no obligation to give a dime to the PA as it reconciles with a known terrorist group," said New York Representative Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Virginia U.S. Representative Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, said the Obama administration and Congress should suspend aid while they assess the new government.
"The laws of the United States prohibit assistance to terrorist organizations," Cantor said in a statement.
New York Representative Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, said she still believed the United States should continue to promote negotiations toward creating a two-state solution.
Lowey said in a statement she was "deeply disappointed" with the announcement of a Palestinian government including "the terrorist organization Hamas."
The influential pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC issued a statement on Monday urging Congress to review assistance to the Palestinian Authority "to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented."
Last Mod: 02 Haziran 2014, 23:11