The White House reacted harshly last night to Israeli criticism of its decision to maintain contacts with the new Palestinian government. "It is unclear to us why some in the Israeli political leadership are staking out such a hard line public position that is fundamentally at odds with their own actions,” a senior White House official told Haaretz.
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The official said that while it is criticizing Washington, Israel has maintained its “robust coordination” with Palestinian security forces. The official said that on Monday, the same day that the new and “technocratic” Palestinian government was established, Israel transferred over 500 million shekels in regular tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.
“This was no accident and reflects the Israeli establishment’s clear interest in maintaining a functioning and stable PA that can effectively administer Palestinian areas,” the official said. “Israel has no interest in seeing the PA collapse and their actions this week reinforce this clear-eyed understanding, despite what some Israeli officials are saying publicly,” he added.
“We have been open and transparent about this with the Israeli government,” the official said, responding to claims being made in Israel that Washington had misled Israel about its reaction to the new Palestinian cabinet. “Our position has consistently been that the threshold for working with a PA government is that it recognize the Quartet principles and doesn't include or share power with Hamas. It is against our interest – and Israel’s interests – to cut ties with and funding to such a PA government. A functioning, stable PA serves our interests, Palestinian interests, and Israeli interests.”
The official reiterated the positions spelled out in recent days by Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki: “We have determined after careful review that we will continue our engagement with the interim technocratic government of the Palestinian Authority (PA), consistent with our laws and longstanding policy. This determination is based on the fact that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include any Ministers affiliated with Hamas and in which Hamas plays no role.
“President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah have made clear privately and publicly that the new government – made up of independent technocrats – will uphold Abbas’ political program, including strict adherence the Quartet principles (recognition of Israel, adherence to past agreements, and commitment to non-violence). The Palestinians understand that this is a core expectation of ours and our international partners, including in the Quartet and the EU.”
The official added that Washington “has no illusions about Hamas” which is “a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and we treat it as such. We do not provide it assistance. Per longstanding U.S. policy, we do not have any contact with Hamas. Moving forward, we will judge this interim technocratic government by its composition, its policies, and its actions to ensure it adheres to these principles”
The official said that the administration would “work closely with Congress to make sure that our assistance can continue consistent with our legal obligations and in furtherance of our shared interest.”