US denies working to undermine Palestinian government
Palestine-USA, Politics, 2/15/2006
The US denied yesterday it is working with Israel to undermine and weaken the Palestinian coming government to be led by Hamas.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said "there is no US-Israeli plan, project, plot, conspiracy to destabilize or undermine a future Palestinian government. There is an existing caretaker government with which we continue to work. We continue to work with President Abbas.
"There are no conversations with the Israelis that we aren't having with other members of the international community, the Quartet, for example. Note the basis of those conversations is the recent Quartet statement out of London that lays down three conditions for any new Palestinian government to meet. And what it says basically -- you have access to it -- is that if a new Palestinian government does not meet the requirements outlined by the Quartet, the Quartet member states, and the Quartet would urge other states to follow suit, would review their assistance to the Palestinian Authority in light of the policies and actions of a future Palestinian government.
"If the future Palestinian government does not meet the conditions and requirements that are outlined in that Quartet statement, certainly, we are going to have to take a hard look at what sort of assistance -- what our assistance programs would be. We do not fund terrorist organizations. We would have to act within not only our laws, but our policies and I believe that other members of the Quartet share that view. It's outlined in the Quartet statement.
Certainly, I think it's understandable that if you have a new Palestinian government that is -- that chooses to break with more than a decade's worth of policy of recognizing the State of Israel, seeking and negotiating a solution with the state of Israel, and turning away from the use of violence and terror as a matter of policy, then of course the international community is going to take a look at what its obligations are to a future Palestinian government.
"I think it's -- I think that that's perfectly reasonable and understandable. So, what the international community has said in a strong, clear voice, beginning with the Quartet statement issued recently in London, is that it is incumbent upon Hamas to make some hard choices. While the government formation process has not formally begun and we don't know what the platform of a future Palestinian government might be, what the composition of that future Palestinian government might be, it is likely to be a Hamas government.
"And that government will be faced with the hard choices of governing. It will be faced with the hard choices of meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people not only for good governance and non-corrupt governance, but also with the aspirations for peace. The Palestinian people, in voting for President Abbas a little more than a year ago, voted for peace. They voted for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian people. So it will be incumbent upon any future Palestinian government to meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people not only for a good governance, non-corrupt governance, but also for peace and security."
Asked "The hard look that the US and others would take at financial assistance if Hamas doesn't do the three things asked of it could result in suspension of assistance and couldn't -- wouldn't that have the effect of destabilizing the Palestinian government?"
McCormack said "there is a review of US assistance programs at this point. There are three basic categories. There's direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority which has happened on an ad hoc basis three times over the past two years. There's indirect assistance which is provided through the Agency for International Development. There's an annual budget for that that's usually provided via NGOs. And then there's also direct assistance to the UN for humanitarian assistance. All US assistance programs are under review. The EU is conducting a similar review of its assistance programs.
"So at this point I can't tell you the outcome of that review. One thing that Secretary Rice has said is that we will look at humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians on a case-by-case basis. We understand there are humanitarian needs. But at this point, I'm not going to either prejudge the outcome of our assistance review and I'm not going to prejudge what the platform or composition of a future Palestinian government might be and I'm not going to prejudge what decisions they may or may not take. It is up to them to make a certain set of decisions. The international community couldn't have been clearer as to what will be required of them and we'll see if they are able to meet the requirements of the international community."
Asked "So are you saying that the policies that they make, will that -- that will be dependent, that will depend how much aid they get, what kind of programs do you get and that could lead ultimately to the destabilization of their government. But you're saying that's an unintended consequence, you're just forcing them to --"
McCormack: No. I'm saying that you're hypothesizing and I'm not going to engage in hypothesizing along with you. What I'm telling you is that there is currently a review of our aid programs and that it -- the requirements for a new Palestinian government in order to realize a relationship with the existing Palestinian government that would be similar are very clear. If they fail to meet those requirements then, of course, the United States and the rest of the international community is going to look at what their assistance programs might be --
Asked: Which could also lead to their downfall, though? So you're saying there are policies that'll dictate --
McCormack: What I'm saying, Elise, is that any new Palestinian government is going to face some -- the hard choices of governing and the hard choices of meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The international community could not have been clearer in what it said about what a new Palestinian government needs to do. If a new Palestinian government does not meet the requirements, as laid out by the international community, then I think there certainly will be a reaction from the international community concerning assistance to that new government.
Asked: When do you expect the review to be completed, because Hamas is likely to come into power fairly soon? And secondly, in her discussions last week with Foreign Minister Livni, did you look at -- did the Secretary at all look at strategy of how to isolate Hamas? What was the substance of those discussions?
McCormack: The substance of the discussions was what we have -- the same substance that we have had with Russia, with the EU, with Secretary General Annan as well as other states and that is seeking to make very clear to Hamas what's required of it. That's the substance of the conversations.
Asked: Well, did you come up with the best ways of doing that, the best strategy to do that?
McCormack: I think the best strategy is the one that we are pursuing and that is sending a clear unified message from the international community about what will be required of a new Palestinian government. The first --
Asked: The other one was when will the review be finished of --
McCormack: I expect over the next week or two. The -- as I understand the timetable, there will be the new Palestinian legislative council will be seated, I think, the 16th or 18th.
Asked: This weekend?
McCormack: Yeah, this weekend. And they will be sworn in. At that point, President Abbas will make some remarks. We will see if Hamas puts forward a prime minister candidate and what the platform for a new government might be. I think that President Abbas might have something to say about the platform upon which a government might be formed. So that's the beginning of the government formation process. I think that there's an amount of time, maybe five weeks, up to five weeks in which they have to form that government -- this is -- as we understand the law.
So this is going to play out over the course of the coming days and weeks.
Asked: But you're not saying one's conditional on the other?
McCormack: What, the -- Well, the aid review is going to --
Asked: -- everything will come out in a week or two --
Asked: Whatever they say in their platform.
McCormack: Right, right. Exactly.
Asked: So I'm sorry, just to go back to the review. When you've finished doing the review, will the review make recommendations as to what can be channeled to humanitarian groups or what will you end up with at the end of the review?
McCormack: I think what we'll have a good understanding of is the totality of our assistance programs and how -- if a government fails to comply with the requirements laid out in the Quartet statement, how those assistance programs might be affected in terms of the law and in terms of our policy. And I would expect that we will also compare notes with the EU during this process once we get to a point where we have a good picture of what our aid programs look like and what our legal and policy requirements will be.
Asked: I'm sorry, I missed it. But the review is the US review?
McCormack: Yeah, there's a US review. I'm saying that --.. I'm saying, yeah, there are parallel tracks going on.
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