WASHINGTON - State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf spoke in defense of the US decision to maintain relations with the Palestinian unity government, stressing that the new cabinet does not include "ministers affiliated with Hamas".
Harf also noted PA President Abbas' clarification that the "new technocratic government was committed to the principles of nonviolence, negotiations, (and) recognition of the state of Israel."
- Netanyahu: Those who accept peace must reject Hamas
- UN, EU, welcome Palestinian unity government
- Pro-Israelis groups slam US over support of unity government
"It appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include any ministers affiliated with Hamas. In fact, most of the key cabinet positions, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the finance minister, are the same as in the prior government. They are all technocrats unaffiliated with any political party and are responsible for facilitating new elections," the US spokeswoman said.
Harf added that "President Abbas made clear that this new technocratic government was committed to the principles of nonviolence, negotiations, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and Quartet principles and prior obligations between the two parties, and finally to continue security coordination with Israel."
Regarding the future of American aid to the Palestinian Authority, the US Spokeswoman said that "the United States does not and will not provide it assistance per long-standing US policy. We do not have any contact with Hamas. No members of Hamas and no ministers affiliated with Hamas, as I said, are part of this government."
Harf added that the American administration "will be judging this technocratic government by its actions," saying that "based on what we now know about the composition of this government, which has, again, no ministers affiliated with Hamas and is committed to the principles I just mentioned, we intend to work with it."
Harf emphasized that the United States "will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds those principles, and we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new technocratic government and calibrate our approach accordingly."
Israel and the West have branded Hamas a terrorist group. But Israel's allies in Washington and Europe have said they will maintain ties to the new government – and continue sending hundreds of millions of dollars in aid – as long as it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.
Prime Minister Netnayahu said Tuesday he is "deeply troubled" by the United States' decision to maintain relations with the new Palestinian unity government, urging Washington to tell the Palestinian president that his alliance with the Hamas militant group is unacceptable.
The blunt language used by Netanyahu reflected the government's disappointment and frustration over the international community's embrace of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' new unity government.
Netanyahu has urged the world to shun the government because it is backed by Hamas, but late Tuesday, both the US and European Union said they would give Abbas a chance.
"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, saying the group has murdered "countless innocent civilians."
Meanwhile, the United Nations and the European Union on Tuesday welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian unity government that came about thanks to a reconciliation deal between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah and Hamas Islamists.
"The secretary-general welcomes, on the basis of assurances provided both publicly and to the United Nations, the announcement on 2 June by President Mahmoud Abbas of the formation of a government of national consensus headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The European Union has also expressed a willingness to work with the new Palestinian government, on condition it sticks to the principle of peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.
"We welcome ... the declaration by President Abbas that this new government is committed to the principle of the two state solution based on the 1967 borders, to the recognition of Israel's legitimate right to exist," the EU said in a statement.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.