JERUSALEM – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a unity government Monday, moving to carry out a reconciliation pact between his Fatah faction and the militant Islamist group Hamas that has raised tensions with Israel.
The United States said it would work with the new Palestinian government and continue providing it with financial aid, because the interim Cabinet is composed of technocrats who do not include ministers affiliated with Hamas.
“Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we’ll be watching closely to ensure that it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiterated today,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Abbas said the 17-member Cabinet, with ministers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, would follow his policies and meet international conditions for diplomatic contact: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous accords with the Israelis.
Although members of the new Cabinet, endorsed by Fatah and Hamas, were billed as independent professionals unaffiliated with either faction, Israel reiterated Monday that it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel and has targeted it with suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
An Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed “deep disappointment” with Washington’s willingness to work with the unity government.
Israel suspended American-brokered negotiations with the Palestinians in April after Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement to carry out their unity deal.
A statement issued Monday after a meeting of the Israeli security Cabinet said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been authorized to impose “additional sanctions” against the Palestinian Authority, but no details were disclosed.
Netanyahu warned that Abbas’ agreement with Hamas makes him “directly responsible for terror emanating from Gaza,” a reference to rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants. It was not immediately clear what action Israel might take against Abbas in response to fresh rocket strikes.
On Monday, Israeli authorities barred three appointed ministers from leaving Gaza to attend the swearing-in ceremony at Abbas’ headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Today, in forming the government of national consensus, we declare the end of the division which caused disastrous harm to our cause for the past seven years,” Abbas said. “Today we announce the recovery of the unity of the homeland and unity of institutions. … This black page in our history has been closed forever.”