State Department: Hamas? Who’s That?

In a time of international turmoil, the State Department under Barack Obama and John Kerry has been at best a bystander, at worst an impediment. The department’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, is an embarrassment. Yesterday, she tried to explain the administration’s policy toward the Palestinian Authority by claiming that Hamas has nothing to do with the PA:

A transcript, courtesy of the State Department:

QUESTION: Well, what about the – what about Palestinian President Abbas sending a strong message to Hamas? I mean, you are recognizing his government, of which Hamas is a part. I mean, doesn’t he bear some responsibility for reining in Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t recognize governments. Hamas is not a part of the technocratic government. We certainly expect —

QUESTION: It’s a unity government of which Hamas is —

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. We certainly expect President Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks and to condemn violence, and he has made a range of those calls. But we’re conveying the same message to him as well about the need to exercise restraint and de-escalate the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: But do you think that he bears some responsibility here? I mean, I just – it’s like at one point, yes, it was a conflict between just the U.S. and Hamas, and Abbas had no real kind of skin in the game because it was between these two parties, even though it was affecting the Palestinian people directly. But now, he’s part of a unity government and has some influence with Hamas now, wouldn’t you say?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have no evidence that Hamas plays any role in the interim technocratic government. And as far as we know, there have also been no steps taken for the implementation of the reconciliation. And obviously, as I mentioned yesterday, given the situation on the ground, it’s difficult to see how the reconciliation process can move forward in the current atmosphere.

I think, yes, we want President Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks and to condemn violence. But I would remind you, as you know, Hamas control – continues to control Gaza. The Palestinian Authority security forces only operate in the West Bank and don’t operate in Gaza. So there are certainly limitations to what is possible, though we want him to do everything in his power to prevent and condemn these type of attacks.

So the State Department can’t find any evidence that Hamas “plays any role in the interim technocratic government”? How about this for evidence–a photograph of representatives of Hamas and Fatah joining in a “unity government” on June 2:

New Palestinian Unity Government

The Guardian reported:

After seven years of a bitter and at times lethal rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in, ending years of division.

The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority’s international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in Gaza and the West Bank. …

The new government will reunite Gaza and the West Bank under a single political authority for the first time since 2007, when Hamas – which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 – asserted control over the Gaza Strip, forcing out Fatah.

The State Department’s evasion rests, apparently, on the phrase “technocratic government,” whatever that means. The point of the evasion, I take it, is that the Obama administration wants to continue funding the Palestinian Authority regardless of the fact that it now has officially incorporated a terrorist entity. Evidently the State Department thinks Hamas is just playing a modest role in the unity government, like being in charge of the Department of Rocketry.


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