Israel’s ambassador to the United States says his government is “deeply disappointed” with the State Department’s announcement that it will work with the new Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas, a rare public rebuke from a senior diplomat.
His criticism was echoed by an Israeli government minister who branded the Obama administration’s decision as “breaking all records” for “naivete.”
Palestinian unity government members including President Mahmoud Abbas, center left, and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, center right, pose for a photo during its swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday, June 2, 2014. Abbas on Monday swore in a Palestinian unity government, taking a major step toward ending a crippling territorial and political split among the Palestinians but also setting the stage for new friction with Israel. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Ambassador Ron Dermer took to Facebook and Twitter Monday night, writing, “Israel is deeply disappointed with the State Department's comments today on the Palestinian unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the murder of many hundreds of Israelis, which has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, and which remains committed to Israel's destruction.”
Israel is deeply disappointed with the State Department's comments today on the Palestinian unity government with Hamas 1/4— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer)June 2, 2014
“This Palestinian unity government is a government of technocrats backed by terrorists, and should be treated as such,” Dermer wrote. “With suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office, it should not be business as usual.”
Dermer was responding to comments by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki that the U.S. would continue to work with the Palestinian government which was sworn in on Monday and would continue funding the Palestinian Authority.
“At this point, it appears that [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas,” Psaki said.
“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,” Psaki added.
Israeli Communications Minister characterized that approach as naive.
“Unfortunately, the American naivete is breaking all records. Cooperating with Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S. and which murders women and children is unacceptable,” Erdan said.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided directly criticizing the Obama administration move, he posted a series of tweets emphasizing the terrorist nature of Hamas, a group that is designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.
RT THIS: Meet President Abbas' new partners: Hamas suicide bombers murdered hundreds of Israelis. pic.twitter.com/B0BLi3823L— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) June 2, 2014
The Jerusalem Post reported that Secretary of State John Kerry placed a call to Netanyahu “just moments” before Psaki’s statement, in an apparent effort to smooth the ground for the announcement.
Netanyahu on Sunday had urged western leaders “not to rush” to recognize the Hamas-backed government.
“The policy has to be against terrorism and against partnership with terrorism,” Netanyahu said on Monday before Psaki’s press briefing.
Republican lawmakers also derided the State Department announcement and called for an immediate halt to the annual $440 million in direct U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Under U.S. law, officially designated terrorist groups cannot be funded by the U.S. government.
House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement, “Until such time that it is determined that assistance to this so-called technocratic government is consistent with our own interests, principles, and laws it is incumbent on the Administration to suspend U.S. assistance.”
Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that sentiment, saying in a joint statement, “Unless Hamas publicly accepts Israel’s right to exist and ceases its support for terrorism, U.S. aid should be suspended to any Palestinian government over which Hamas exercises influence.”
“The administration's initial reaction to continue aid is troubling and runs counter to existing law,” the senators added.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa said the Palestinian presentation of the government as “technocratic” was designed to skirt U.S. law.
“The Palestinian leaders know that a unity government would trigger U.S. law to cut off funding, so now they are trying to find loopholes in order to say that they are still abiding by the conditions our law’s mandate,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “This contortionist act, akin to an embarrassingly evil Cirque du Soleil trick without any of the charm, is disingenuous at best, but this is the type of scheme you would expect from Abu Mazen [President Abbas] and his cronies as they continue to try to undermine the peace process and fail to live up to past agreements with Israel.”
Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett called the Palestinian ministers “terrorists in suits.”
"They can call themselves 'ministers' if they want, but that won't change what they really are,” Bennett said.
Abbas has said the new interim government, which sets the stage for elections later this year, would abide by peace agreements with Israel; however, Hamas has said it continues to be committed to armed attacks against Israel.