Mere hours after the formation of a Palestinian unity government, the United States announced that – despite stern Israeli opposition the move – it would not boycott the new Hamas-backed government.
The reason for that announcement may have been revealed; senior diplomatic sources told NY-based news website BuzzFeed that the US has held secret talks with Hamas for the past six months.
The American administration denied the allegations as unfounded.
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According to the aforementioned sources, the meetings between American mediators and Hamas leadership were conducted outside the Gaza Strip – in Egypt, Qatar, and Jordan. The topics of the negotiations included the ceasefire agreement with Israel and the formation of a Palestinian unity government, reported BuzzFeed.
The report claimed that Hamas gave assurances to the US which allowed it to support the unity government despite the firm opposition from Israel. According to the diplomatic sources – one Palestinian and one American – the assurances included a commitment to maintain the de-facto ceasefire with Israel which has been in place since Operation Pillar of Defense.
“Our administration needed to hear from them that this unity government would move toward democratic elections, and toward a more peaceful resolution with the entire region,” said the US official. "It was important to have that line of communication."
The State Department denied the backchannel talks. These assertions are completely untrue,” Spokeswoman Marie Harf told BuzzFeed. "There is no such back channel. Our position on Hamas has not changed.”
The Americans have denied the existence of a secret line to Hamas in the past; in 2012, then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland claimed that reports of such a back channel were "bizarre."
From time to time Israel also makes use of mediators, usually Egypt, in order to talk to Hamas – as happened at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense and after other military operations.
'Aid to PA will continue'
A US source told Ynet that the American administration intends to continue providing the Palestinian Authority with financial aid. He said such a step should be coordinated with Congress, but that the meaning of the recognition of the new government was merely to continue transferring funds to the PA.
The source said recognition of the new government would require work, but that because of Hamas' inclusion the US will continue to closely monitor the government's conduct.
Meanwhile, the right-wing in America criticized President Barack Obama and his administration for recognizing the Palestinian unity government against Israel's wishes. US representatives and senators examined the possibility of halting the American aid to the PA.
US law determines that the government cannot offer financial aid to bodies that are in contact with terrorist organizations; the US has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.