A Palestinian unity government was sworn in on Monday after a landmark reconciliation deal with the Islamist movement Hamas that Israel plans to boycott, but Washington said it will work with.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, following a ceremony at the Muqataa presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hailed “the end” of a bitter and sometimes bloody divide between his Fatah movement and rival Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas applauded the new government as representing “all Palestinians,” saying it was a “turning point” in its relations with Fatah, which dominates Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
The long-awaited new Cabinet was the product of an internal agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which has been blacklisted by Washington and the EU as a “terror organization.”
In an early boost for the new team, Washington said on Monday it would work with the unity government and maintain aid, while “watching closely” to ensure it respects the principle of non-violence.
US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington believes Abbas has “formed an interim technocratic government... that does not include members affiliated with Hamas.”
“With what we know now, we will work with this government,” Psaki said.
The US “will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds principles” of non-violence and recognition of the state of Israel, she said, while confirming that US aid to the Palestinian Authority would continue.
Israel was swift to voice its displeasure.
“We are deeply disappointed by the comments of the State Department regarding working with the Palestinian unity government,” an Israeli government official said.
The US is “enabling Abbas to believe that it is acceptable to form a government with a terrorist organization,” the official said.
Standing on a red carpet lined with Palestinian flags, the new ministers filed past, each laying their hand on either a Koran or a Bible to take the oath of office.
“Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national cause,” Abbas said. “This black page in history has been turned forever.”
“We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
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