Kerry: US to monitor Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government

Secretary of state defends decision to work with new leadership, says Washington will ensure it ‘doesn’t cross the line’

US Secretary of State John Kerry (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (photo credit: AP/Hussein Malla)

US Secretary of State John Kerry defended Wednesday a US decision to work with the new Palestinian unity government, despite Israeli criticism, emphasizing that the new Palestinian leadership did not include any Hamas ministers.

The United States, like Israel and the European Union, consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Kerry said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “made clear that this new technocratic government is committed to the principles of non violence, negotiations, recognizing the state of Israel, acceptance of the previous agreements and the Quartet principles.”

“Based on what we know now about the composition of this technocratic government, which has no minister affiliated to Hamas and is committed to the principles that I describe, we will work with it as we need to, as appropriate.”

Kerry also said US preparedness to work with the Palestinian government does not mean recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The US does not recognize a government with respect to Palestine because that would recognize a state and there is no state,” he said.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization. It has not accepted the Quartet principles. It continues to call for the destruction of Israel. It continues even as it moves into this new posture. And so we are obviously going to watch closely what happens, but we will… work with it in the constraints that we are obviously facing,” said the secretary of state.

While on an unscheduled visit to Beirut, Kerry said: “I want to make it very clear we are going to be watching it (the government) very closely, as we have said from day one, to absolutely ensure that it upholds each of those things it has talked about, that it doesn’t cross the line.”

A new Palestinian cabinet was sworn in Monday, after a surprise reconciliation deal reached in April between Hamas and the PLO.

The United States, the EU, the UN and Russia have all accepted to work with the cabinet.

Despite the alliance with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and is pledged to its destruction, Abbas has said the government would abide by the principles of the Middle East Quartet, which envisage the establishment of two states.

The US’ readiness to work with the new government has prompted fury from Israel, with Netanyahu branding it Tuesday as “a step against peace”.

“I’m deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas,” Netanyahu told The Associated Press Tuesday, saying the group has murdered “countless innocent civilians.”

“All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’s embrace of Hamas, and most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Kerry said he was in regular touch with the Israeli prime minister and two were “completely talking about this on a day-to-day basis.”

He reiterated Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security, adding “there is nothing that is changing our security relationship.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed