While calling on Israel to exercise “restraint” in the face of incessant rocket fire and nationwide Arab rioting, the United States says Hamas is not really part of the Palestinian Authority unity government.
Moreover, the U.S. contends that PA unity government leader Mahmoud Abbas carries no responsibility for its actions.
Abbas has yet to break his ties with Hamas and dissolve his Fatah faction’s unity pact with the terrorist organization that rules Gaza.
At a State Department news briefing on Monday, spokesperson Jen Psaki admitted to reporters Secretary of State John Kerry had asked Israel – “as he’s urged both parties” — to exercise restraint and “avoid steps that could further destabilize the situation.”
In response to an immediate question from a journalist as to whether Kerry had also spoken with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in the same manner, Psaki responded:
“He has spoken with him over the course of the last several days or week. I don’t – let me see if I have anything specific over the last – he spoke with him – let’s see – I know last Tuesday. He’s been in – I think it’s important to reiterate here we’ve been in touch on the ground very closely with both parties.”
The journalist persisted, noting, “Well, but you’ve seen the comments that are coming out of Hamas. And now that the U.S. has, in effect, kind of accept the fact that Hamas is now in this unity government, you would think that as leader of this unity government it would be incumbent on President Abbas to rein in or take – try and maintain some kind of control over the activities of Hamas. Isn’t that correct?”
Psaki’s reply: “Well, you’re right. I mean, we’ve stated – you’re right in the sense that we have stated from the beginning that we would judge the interim government by its actions, composition, and policies. And based on what we know now, this hasn’t changed. We don’t believe that Hamas plays a role in the government. However, to your point, it is difficult to see how other aspects of the reconciliation process can move forward in this current atmosphere, and we’ve conveyed that as well.”
The journalist did not let up. “Well, I mean, I understand that you – that maybe it’s a technicality that Hamas doesn’t play a part in this government, but it is a unity government that includes Hamas. And I’m just wondering, now does President Abbas more so than ever bear responsibility for the actions of Hamas?”
Psaki: “No. But we have – President Abbas himself has suggested that there would be serious consequences for whatever party carried out the crimes that we’ve been talking about over the last several weeks. And as I mentioned, it’s difficult for us to see, given this current atmosphere, how other aspects of the reconciliation process could continue.”
Journalist: “Just one quick last one. Did Secretary Kerry mention the specific case of this Israeli-Palestinian teen that was beaten?”
Psaki: “I don’t have any other further details, but I think it’s safe to assume when he’s talking about the escalating tensions on the ground, he’s talking about all of the reports that you’ve seen in the news that we’ve all been discussing.”
Journalist continues: “Did you have a response, reaction – and forgive me if I missed it – to the Palestinian teenager who was killed, this cousin of this – or did that happen over the –
Psaki: “I believe we’ve put out something over the weekend. I can double-check that and certainly. . .
Journalist: “Okay. Thus far, have you seen both sides exercising the kind of restraint that you think is necessary?”