JERUSALEM, Israel -- The U.S. administration openly welcomed the new unity government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, even though his partner is the Hamas terror organization. The move drew sharp reactions from the U.S. Congress and from Israel.
Abbas swore in his unity government on Monday at the P.A.'s Ramallah headquarters, ending seven years of division between Hamas and Fatah.
"The importance of this government is that we ended the split and we are on our way to complete the national unity," Abbas said. The task of the government, he said, is to facilitate elections within six months. Abbas term ended on January 9, 2009.
Interim Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the government is committed to international agreements signed by the PLO.
What danger does this unity government mean for Israel? Middle East expert Jonathan Schanzer, with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, offers more insight on CBN Newswatch, June 3.
"We call on the international community to immediately recognize the government and continue to support the Palestinian political leadership efforts to enable the government to face all political challenges especially the Israeli policies," Hamdallah said.
Israel expressed its disappointment and threatened sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.
Officials here in Jerusalem warned the world community there's a great deal at stake. By recognizing this government, they are in essence embracing a terror group.
"You know Hamas is a ruthless terrorist organization responsible for the murder of countless innocent civilizations and an organization that says my country should be destroyed," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.
The State Department insisted it would judge the new unity government by its actions.
"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," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told the press.
But Israeli government advisor Dore Gold calls the move a mistake.
"The State of Israel is deeply disappointed in the statements made yesterday from the state department spokesman to not immediately reject Hamas, to not call on Mahmoud Abbas to break away from Hamas is a very big mistake," Gold told CBN News.
It also puts the Obama administration at odds with Congress.
Senators Mark Rubio, R-Fl., and Mark Kirk, R-Il., called on the administration to halt and review U.S. aid to the P.A., saying the law is clear.
The U.S. provides more than $500 million in annual aid to the Palestinians.
"Unless Hamas publicly accepts Israel's right to exist and ceases its support for terrorism, U.S. aid should be suspended to any Palestinian government over which Hamas exercises influence," they said in a statement.
"The administration's initial reaction to continue aid is outrageous and runs counter to existing law. We call on the Obama administration to enforce the law. U.S. credibility as well as Israel's security are at stake," the senators said.
Their call draws the battle line between President Obama and Congress.