Daily Press Briefing
June 3, 2014
- Palestinian Interim Technocratic Government
- U.S. Assistance to the Palestinian Authority
- Formation of the Technocratic Interim Government
- U.S.-Israeli Relationship
2:24 p.m. EDT
And finally, I know there was a lot of questions about this yesterday and I think we just want to be very clear about a few things in terms of the Palestinian interim government. As we said yesterday, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include any ministers affiliated with Hamas. In fact, most of the key cabinet positions, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers, and the finance minister, are the same as in the prior government. They are all technocrats unaffiliated with any political party and are responsible for facilitating new elections.
President Abbas made clear that this new technocratic government was committed to the principles of nonviolence, negotiations, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and Quartet principles and prior obligations between the two parties, and finally, to continue security coordination with Israel. To be clear, moving forward, we will be judging this technocratic government by its actions. As we said, based on what we now know about the composition of this government, which has, again, no ministers affiliated with Hamas and is committed to the principles I just mentioned, we intend to work with it. But we will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds those principles, and we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new technocratic government and calibrate our approach accordingly.
As you all know, Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization. The United States does not and will not provide it assistance. Per longstanding U.S. policy, we do not have any contact with Hamas. No members of Hamas and no ministers affiliated with Hamas, as I said, are part of this government. I just want to —
QUESTION: Can we go back to the Israeli-Palestinian stuff?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh. We can.
QUESTION: In response to a question yesterday at the briefing, Jen was asked whether her comments, which were almost word-perfect identical to yours, I think —
MS. HARF: She and I are meshed up well like that.
QUESTION: I’ve noticed. Meant that the United States would continue funding – based on what it knows now, the United States would continue funding the Palestinian Authority under this new unity government. And she replied, “It does.” Is that still the position?
MS. HARF: It is, broadly speaking, right. Now, obviously, we’ll have conversations with Congress. We will watch the actions of this new technocratic interim government as it goes forward. So I don’t have anything specific for you on that. But nothing’s changed from where we were yesterday.
QUESTION: Just one other thing on this. My understanding of the law is that if you were to – is that the law would bar you from funding such a government if you concluded that Hamas exerted undue influence on it, correct?
MS. HARF: I can check with our legal folks.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry, Arshad. I don’t know the specifics.
QUESTION: I think that’s – I think that is it. And then I think the only exception is if the President determines that such government is meeting the various conditions, several of which – it doesn’t cite all of them in the law, I think, but a couple of which you mentioned just now. So you could – okay. Well, if you don’t know that then —
MS. HARF: Sorry, yeah.
QUESTION: — don’t worry about it.
MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m happy to check with our legal folks on that and see if we can get you more.
QUESTION: Then don’t worry about it.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: The Israelis, predictably, have reacted angrily. They’re deeply disappointed by your decision. Some people are saying – some Israeli commentators are saying it’s a knife in the back. Some are saying that this is a support for terrorism. What is your answer to that?
MS. HARF: Well, on the last point, we’ve been very clear Hamas is a terrorist organization. We don’t provide them assistance. We don’t work with them. Again, this is an interim technocratic government made up of no ministers affiliated with Hamas, period. And I think that’s actually been misconstrued in some of the reports out there that people have been citing, and I just want to be very clear that that’s part of what goes in – a huge part of what goes into our decision to continue working with the Palestinian government. And also we will evaluate their actions. So our position on Hamas has in no way changed, period, full stop. I couldn’t be more clear about that.
QUESTION: Are you worried, though, that this could drive yet another wedge in between – ties between the – Israel and the United States?
MS. HARF: Well, look, the United States and Israel have a long, historic, and unshakeable friendship, period, over many, many decades, over many administrations, through a lot of difficult times. And I think what we’ve been very clear is that relationship’s not going to change. Again, we’ve made our position on the interim Palestinian government clear as well.
QUESTION: But how do you respond to the Israeli anger, though? They’re clearly disappointed by what happened, by the fact that you’ve come out and you’ve supported this new technocratic government.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been very clear that we’re going to be judging the government by the actions it undertakes. First, they made a decision not to include any ministers from Hamas. They embraced the principles that we said up here at the podium before they formed the government and said they needed to embrace, right. The Quartet principles, nonviolence, recognition of Israel – they did all of those things. We were very clear about what they needed to do, and they did.
So we can only stand by what we do. We’ll continue conversations with the Israelis going forward on this. As you know, the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke yesterday about the announcement of the new Palestinian government. They agreed to continue consulting further on it going forward.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So in your clarification, you really hit on the point that the U.S. would be watching —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — the composition of the new unity government.
MS. HARF: And their actions.
QUESTION: And their actions. Okay.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if there’s any precedent for – if you – if the U.S. is worried or has been given cause to worry about – now that the announcement has been made that members of Hamas will replace sitting ministers, or if you happen to know, for example, what the term of sitting ministers is?
MS. HARF: I can check on that. But I will note – again, the reason I keep calling it the interim government is because one of the primary responsibilities is to have new elections.
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. HARF: And obviously I think they’ve talked about some of the timing on that. I don’t have all of that in front of me, but stressing, again, this is an interim government that will be holding new elections for a new government eventually.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. HARF: On this?
QUESTION: On this.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Regarding the money that is – the aid which is economic aid, which is almost $440 million, and this was a point of objection from the Congress and other organizations here – are you still holding it, or you’re going to make it flow normally until —
MS. HARF: To the Palestinian Authority?
MS. HARF: Well, as I said to Arshad’s question, I don’t have anything additional to what Jen said yesterday. Obviously, we’ll keep working with Congress on this. We’ll look at the actions the government takes, but part of working with the government will be, broadly speaking, to continue to provide assistance.
QUESTION: When you said “actions,” what do you mean exactly?
MS. HARF: All of them. Everything the government does.
QUESTION: I mean, to be clear – I mean, because it’s like if you ask somebody not to do something, you have to say what you – what you are not expecting in order not to do it, or do it.
MS. HARF: Well, as I just said – I think I got at it briefly with Jo’s question – there were a number of actions and steps that we said the Palestinian government would need to take if we were to continue working with them before they decided to form the government the way they did, I think, yesterday, now. And they took those.
So you can judge a government by what it does – again, noting this is only an interim government. There are no ministers affiliated with Hamas in it. There have been reports out there saying this is a Hamas-backed government. That’s just not the case. So we want —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Can it be backed by Hamas without having a Hamas minister in it? I mean, the agreement that – the government is the result of an agreement between Abbas and Hamas. Just —
MS. HARF: And there are no members of Hamas in the government.
QUESTION: Right. But that’s different from it being supported by Hamas.
MS. HARF: I think that some of those reports have led people incorrectly to think that members of Hamas are part of the new government —
MS. HARF: — which is why I wanted to be very clear that they’re not.
QUESTION: Yes. And beside that, when you are saying “actions” – I mean, because what is not clear for me and for other people probably is that when you said there is a – money is going there and support, whatever, to technocratic government, but this technocratic government is going to work for both Palestinian people, whether they are in Gaza —
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say any money was going forward right now. I said we, broadly speaking, believed in continuing assistance, and we’re going to talk to Congress and figure out what that looks like.
QUESTION: Anyway, regarding the actions, the actions of this government has to be actions for both West Bank and Gaza, right?
MS. HARF: Well, again, part of the actions are things that I just mentioned, like embracing the Quartet principles, recognition of Israel, nonviolence. Those are steps that they’ve taken to say they support these very important principles that we’ve said we believe they need to support for us to continue working with them, so we’ll keep watching.
QUESTION: You are —
MS. HARF: And we’ll continue evaluating.
QUESTION: Are you in touch with EU, or you think that your position is different from EU?
MS. HARF: The EU on this? I can check. I mean, we talk to the EU all the time on a host of issues. I don’t know if we’ve talked to them specifically about this. I’m happy to check.