J Street Urges Caution Following Formation of Interim Palestinian Government

June 2nd, 2014

J Street urges the US and Israeli governments to adopt a watchful, waiting position in response to the formation of a new Palestinian government.

The government was formed from an agreement between President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas which controls Gaza. However the cabinet is made up of ministers who are described by Abbas’ office as politically independent technocrats not affiliated with Hamas or any other party. Abbas has reiterated his government’s recognition of Israel and commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

International leaders, including those from the United States and Europe, have made clear that the new Palestinian government must accept the conditions set out by the Middle East Quartet; namely to recognize Israel, renounce violence and adhere to previous Israel-Palestinian agreements. Any government that continues to accept and abide by these terms should remain a partner for the United States.

While this new government must meet these clear conditions in order to be a partner, the potential benefit of political unification is that it allows the Palestinian President to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians, those in Gaza as well as those in the West Bank.

J Street condemns the recent statement by Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza Ismael 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.”

Neither Israel nor the United States can do business with Hamas until it accepts Israel’s right to exist and renounces violence. However, the true test of the new Palestinian government should be the policies it follows.

“The Obama administration and Congress should review the composition and policies of the new government to ensure they are in line with US law,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “It would be a mistake for either the United States or Israel to take rash punitive actions against the Palestinians that will only hurt their own interests and set back hopes of resuming peace negotiations.”

Ben–Ami added: “Israelis have benefited enormously from the day-to-day cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces and other official contacts and this should not be sacrificed. The last thing anyone needs to do is rush to cut off aid which could defund Palestinian security forces, destabilize the fragile Palestinian economy and lead to an increase in instability in the West Bank.”