Reid: Palestinian Unity Government 'Gigantic Step Backward'

Tuesday, 03 Jun 2014 11:41 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has condemned the new Palestinian unity government, calling it "a gigantic step backward" to accept a coalition "which is clearly backed by Hamas."

The Nevada Democrat's office released a statement in which the senator said that "Hamas is a terrorist organization and its leaders continue to pursue the destruction of the state of Israel.

"I stand with Israel and condemn the Palestinians' decision to form this new government."

Reid's stance is in stark opposition to the Obama administration's declaration that it is willing to recognize, fund and work with the unity government.

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"They are all technocrats, unaffiliated with any political party, and are responsible for facilitating new elections," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said of the new Palestinian cabinet, The Washington Post reports.

The Israeli government has flatly refused to accept such a position.

"You cannot present it internally as a Hamas government and present it on the outside as a technocrats' government," Israel's intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio, the Jerusalem Post reports.

"If these people are identified with Hamas, or are people with whom Hamas identifies and were appointed by Hamas, then these are Hamas representatives," Steinitz said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an April appearance on the CBS Sunday news show "Face the Nation," condemned Hamas as Holocaust deniers who still seek the destruction of the Jewish state.

[Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas "cannot embrace Hamas and say he wants peace with Israel," Netanyahu said, calling Abbas' Hamas discussions "a terrible step away from peace."

He advised Abbas to "tear up that pact" and vowed that Israel would never negotiate with a government backed by Hamas as long as he was prime minister.

"I'm deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas," Netanyahu told The Associated Press on Tuesday, saying the group has murdered "countless innocent civilians."

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