U.S.: Israel's Decision to Withhold PA Funds 'Premature'

State department deputy spokesman Mark Toner says the U.S. is waiting to see how the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal will pan out before making decisions.

The United States slammed Monday Israel’s decision to withhold Palestinian Authority funds saying "any decision following the Hamas-Fatah agreement is premature.”

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner admitted that the Israelis “have their concerns,” but stressed that that the U.S. government's position is that “we believe that we need to wait and see. We believe it's premature to make any decisions. What's important now is that the Palestinians ensure implementation in a way that advances the prospects of peace."

Meshal Abbas May 4 2011

"We are looking to see what this reconciliation agreement looks like in practical terms, before we make any decisions about future assistance," Toner said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said earlier Monday that for the first time since 2007, the PA is not able to pay salaries to official workers because of Israel's decision to withhold funds.

The U.S. administration hinted again that the warnings of some members of Congress to cut the aid to the Palestinian Authority following their agreement with Hamas would not be constructive.

“We understand these concerns, and I would just say, as the new Palestinian government's formed, we'll assess it based on its policies and we'll determine the implications for our assistance”, Toner said, adding that training the Palestinian police force was “worthwhile”, as “they are an effective force and they have made significant gains in providing security.

Last week, at the Senate hearing on confirmation of Dan Shapiro's candidacy as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Shapiro said that the Administration is following closely the implications of the reconciliation agreement.

“There are many details that are as yet unknown about this agreement”, he said, adding that "there are ambiguities in the language of it. There are deep uncertainties about its prospects for implementation. And so we'll be following that very closely and staying in close touch with the Congress, and also maintaining, as we always do, very close consultations with our colleagues and our partners in the Israeli government to ensure that we have the closest possible common understanding of the meaning of these events.”

Shapiro called Hamas a “terrorist organization,” adding that Palestinian reconciliation is ultimately a desirable goal – if it takes place “on terms that support peace."