According to the London-based Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi, David Welch, the U.S. Envoy for Near Eastern Affairs, told leader Mahmoud Abbas on a visit last week that Washington wishes to see the formation of a Hamas-led government delayed.
Under Palestinian law, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ designated prime minister, has five weeks to form a government since Abbas officially appointed him to form a new administration on February 21.
Palestinian sources told the newspaper that the Bush administration believes Hamas’ presence at the helm will boost the showing of “the Israeli extreme right” at the polls. Washington is especially concerned that Likud’s victory in the elections will hinder its efforts to revive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The source said Washington prefers a Kadima win.
The paper reported that the U.S. government has no immediate agenda to revive long-stalled peace talks and is postponing a more active role in the region till after the elections in Israel.
Abbas told U.S. officials that Hamas should be allowed to govern and “there are no attempts to unseat a Hamas-led government in the future.”
After his meeting with Palestinian officials on Saturday, Welch said the U.S. continues "to be devoted to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and we shall remain so."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Welch told Palestinian officials that U.S. aid would be redirected, but did not specify.
Erekat noted that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid flow directly into infrastructure projects every year, and not into Palestinian government coffers.
Abbas said in a weekend interview that the Welch told him the United States respects the “democratic choice of the Palestinian people.”