U.S. Jews to Obama: Beware of PA Unity Gov't

Reactions range from calling on Obama administration to cut off all funds to Palestinians to measuring new government according to its actions.

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Haniyeh, the outgoing Hamas prime minister in Gaza, speaking at his Gaza City office, June 2, 2014. J Street condemned his statement referring to Israel as 'the Zionist enemy.'
Haniyeh, the outgoing Hamas prime minister in Gaza, speaking at his Gaza City office, June 2, 2014. J Street condemned his statement referring to Israel as 'the Zionist enemy.' Credit: AP

American Jewish organizations by and large urged the U.S. government to either review or outright cut off its financial support of the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the newly formed Fatah-Hamas government.

President Mahmoud Abbas announced the new cabinet, made up of technocrats, ending the split between the Hamas-run Gaza administration and the West Bank-run government that had lasted since violently splitting into two polities in 2007.

U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that the U.S. intends to work with the new Fatah-Hamas government but will be watching it closely to ensure that it upholds the principles of the Quartet - recognize Israel, reject terror, and honor previously signed agreements.

"We are greatly concerned and disappointed by the announcement of the formation of a Palestinian Authority unity government backed by Hamas," announced AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby on Capitol Hill after the sweating in of the unity government. "The embrace of the notorious Islamist terrorist organization is a disturbing setback to peace."

AIPAC stated that U.S. law clearly bars funds "to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence." AIPAC urged Congress "to conduct a thorough review of continued U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented."

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a press release by his organization that the unity government is "another setback to any prospect for peace." He urged the United States and the EU to uphold their recognition of Hamas as a terrorist organization, calling so-called Hamas technocrats wolves in sheep's clothing.

"Whatever Abbas may think is gained by signing this pact with Hamas, there must be clear consequences from Western nations," said Harris in the press release. "It can't be business as usual."

J Street, the pro-peace lobby, took a middle of the road position, counseling caution while calling out Hamas for its anti-Israel rhetoric.

"J Street urges the US and Israeli governments to adopt a watchful, waiting position in response to the formation of a new Palestinian government," announced the lobby at the opening of its response. After emphasizing that the new Palestinian government must accept the conditions set out by the Middle East Quartet by recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and adhering to previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, J Street took the outgoing Hamas leader in Gaza to task.

"J Street condemns the recent statement by Hamas' Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh that, 'Palestinian reconciliation aims to unite the Palestinian people against the prime enemy, the Zionist enemy. It aims to pursue the choice of resistance and steadfastness.'"

J Street stressed that neither Israel nor the United States "can do business with Hamas until it accepts Israel's right to exist and renounce violence." At the same time, it noted that "the true test of the new Palestinian government should be the policies it follows."

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations did not call for an immediate end of financial assistance to the PA but rather cautioned the U.S. and other governments to be "vigilant in their judgment of and dealings with" the new unity government.

"We, therefore, support the calls by members of Congress from both parties to review U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and to assure that the law is appropriately implemented," the NGO announced Monday.

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union's executive director for public policy, was more unequivocal in his organization's press release Monday.

He said the OU was calling upon the Obama Administration "to withhold any recognition – formal or informal – of this new entity and to withhold American material support from its institutions as required by Federal law." The OU also urged Western governments, "who've long stated their objections to terrorism, to do the same." He added, "This is a moment where people of good will must act in accordance with clear moral principles and oppose the ideology of hate and violence."

The Zionist Organization of America had the harshest words for the U.S. government. "We are deeply critical of the Obama Administration for ignoring Abbas’s Fatah/PA’s latest, staggering violation of the Oslo agreements — forming a government with a recognized terrorist movement, which, under the terms of Oslo, were to have been banned," the ZOA stated.

Americans for Peace Now provided one of the few supportive voices within the community, calling on the "Obama administration, the Israeli government and the international community to determine their relations with this new Palestinian government based on its positions and actions, rather than using Hamas' participation in its formation as pretext to reject it," the organization said in its statement.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (5th from left in front) with ministers at the unity government's swearing-in ceremony, Ramallah, West Bank, June 2, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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