Israel ‘deeply disappointed’ by U.S. support for Palestinian unity govt

Palestinian president swore in the country’s unity government after a last-minute hitch was resolved

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Israel is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the reaction of the United States to Palestine’s newly-formed unity government, after the U.S. State Department announced that it intended to work with the newly-formed administration, Reuters reported on Monday.

“We are deeply disappointed by the comments of the (U.S.) State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government,” a government official said, according to Agence France-Presse.

“This Palestinian government is a government backed by Hamas, which is a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction,” the official told AFP, declining to be named.

Earlier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government on Monday in a reconciliation deal with Hamas Islamists, who advocate Israel's destruction.

In its first comment since the government took office, the State Department stressed that it regarded the new Cabinet as made up of technocrats, rather than Hamas officials, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist group.

“At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include ministers affiliated with Hamas,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily press briefing.

“Based on what we know now we intend to work with this government but will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles that President Abbas reiterated today,” she said, referring to Abbas' commitment to honor past peace deals and the principles underlying the peace process with Israel.

“But we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new government and calibrate our approach accordingly,” she added.

Earlier on Monday, Abbas hailed the new government he had sworn in.

"Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case," Abbas said at his Ramallah headquarters after the new cabinet was sworn in.

Gaza's Hamas rulers hailed the establishment of a national unity government for all Palestinians after a new cabinet took its oath.

"We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Agence France Presse.

The cabinet, which is made up of political independents, comprises 17 ministers, five of them from Gaza, and is headed by prime minister Rami Hamdallah.

Hamas and the Western-backed Palestine Liberation Organization, which is dominated by Abbas’s secular Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement on April 23 to end years of bitter and sometime bloody rivalry.

In recent days, Hamas had announced that it would not support the new administration because of a decision by Abbas to scrap the Ministry for Prisoner Affairs and replace it with a committee that would have fallen outside the control of the cabinet.

But Hamas official Salah al-Bardaweel told Reuters news agency that it was agreed the ministry would be given to Hamdallah, "and the dispute between Hamas and Fatah has been resolved".

Hamdallah had previously served as prime minister within the West Bank-based government.

Israel has urged the United States and Europe to shun any unity government supported by Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist and has not renounced violence.

The prisoners' minister deals with Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Palestinians view the detainees as freedom fighters while Israel denounces them as terrorists.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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