Hilary Leila Krieger
The Jerusalem Post
May 6, 2011 - 12:00am

The US won’t deal with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group reforms, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on Thursday.

In the wake of the unity deal signed between Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday, Clinton said Hamas must adopt the Quartet principles of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and respecting treaties previously signed by the Palestinians.

“We’ve made it very clear that we cannot support any government that consists [sic] of Hamas unless and until Hamas adopts the Quartet principles,” Clinton said at a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, referring to the conditions set by the US, UN, EU and Russia.

Frattini said he, like Clinton, was waiting for further details on the exact nature of the new Palestinian Authority government, but stressed that Italy, too, felt Hamas must comply with the Quartet requirements to be a suitable partner.

“There is no doubt that complying with the principles of the Quartet is a prerequisite before Hamas can be considered by Italy as a potential interlocutor,” he said.

The surprise deal between the rival Palestinian factions has scrambled diplomatic calculations on all sides in what was already a chaotic Middle Eastern juncture.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be consulting with US President Barack Obama on the implications of Palestinian reconciliation among other regional developments when they meet in Washington on May 20.

The White House put out an announcement on Wednesday night saying “the leaders look forward to discussing the full range of issues of mutual interest to the United States and Israel.”

While in town, Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress, as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Before the unity deal was announced, he was said to be preparing the outline of a path for reaching an accord with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s plans were partly prompted by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s stated intention of turning to the UN for a vote to recognize Palestinian statehood in September, and by an Israeli desire to seize the initiative at a time of great turmoil among Arab regimes, including Israel’s closest neighbors.

Those considerations – and an interest to shape the contours for peace before Netanyahu did so – were also seen to be pushing Obama to make a speech.

In April, Clinton hinted that Obama would soon address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the changing Middle East regimes. But the Fatah-Hamas unity deal seems to have affected that plan.

“President Obama has also been thinking about making a speech laying out his approach to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When the agreement between Fatah and Hamas was announced last week, it caught both Washington and Jerusalem by surprise,” former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“That put an end for the time being to the idea that the president would come out with a peace plan, because if the environment was hostile before, it seemed to have grown even more hostile because of the Palestinian agreement negotiated by the Egyptians.”

Yet Indyk said that given the week’s events, “some influential people in the administration say that the opportunity of the president giving a ‘winds of change’ speech, in which he frames America’s approach to the ongoing Arab awakening and lays out his approach to solving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, may well be strengthened by the killing of [Osama] bin Laden.”

On Thursday, Clinton also articulated American attitudes toward one of the countries rocked by the recent uprisings, noting the US’s “deep concern about the alarming situation in Syria.” She welcomed Italy’s call for the EU to impose sanctions, following the US decision to establish sanctions against individuals who have engaged in human rights abuses.

“Together, we have to show the Syrian government that there are consequences for this brutal crackdown that has been imposed on the Syrian people,” she said.


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