Clinton: U.S. could deal with P.A. gov’t that includes Hamas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration said it would deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas if the government were committed to peace.

“We have made it clear we will only work with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly accepts the Quartet’s principles — a commitment to nonviolence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday in testimony before the foreign operations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “In the event of any Hamas participation of any sort in this coalition, this would apply if the government, representing all of its agencies and instrumentalities, accepts these principles.”

The Quartet is the grouping of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations that guides the "road map" peace plan introduced in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Clinton’s statements represented a modification of her remarks a day earlier to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when she rejected the possibility of any dealings with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The new position more accurately reflected the language of the request for funds the State Department had submitted to Congress.

P.A. moderates who direct Palestinian affairs in the West Bank are in unity talks with Hamas. Reconciliation is a long shot — Hamas’ ouster in 2006 of loyalists to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas was bloody — but the new Obama administration is heeding Arab and European allies urging it not to emulate the Bush administration’s “no deal” position the last time such talks were under way, in early 2006. The perception is that the threat at that time to isolate Abbas if he dealt with Hamas helped weaken him, setting the stage for the Hamas coup.

Clinton’s formulation Thursday would allow for U.S. funding of a Palestinian Cabinet with a majority of ministers who meet western conditions for recognition even if it includes Hamas ministers who reject them.

“We doubt there will be such a unity agreement,” Clinton said, referring to unity talks in Cairo. “There doesn’t seem to be one in store. But we don’t want to, you know, bind our hands in the event that such an agreement is reached and the government that they are part of agrees to our principles.”

U.S. law bans such funding; Clinton explained that the Obama administration would consider exercising its prerogative to waive such a law should such a government arise.

Israeli leaders are adamant that any Palestinian government must meet the Quartet preconditions for talks.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the subcommittee, expressed skepticism about supporting such a government. 

"I believe it’s not enough for Abu Mazen or Salam Fayyad to accept the principles,” she said, using Abbas’ byname and referring to Fayyad, the P.A. prime minister. “It must be all the ministers, including any minister appointed by Hamas, that comply with these principles.”

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