A bipartisan group of 88 senators has expressed concern over Washington's apparent willingness to work with the new Palestinian unity government, which includes Hamas officials.
In a letter initiated by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), which was sent to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, the senators described the Palestinian unity government as "a serious setback to efforts to achieve peace. ... We are gravely concerned that the formation of this government and President [Mahmoud] Abbas' renewed effort to upgrade the status of the Palestinians within international organizations, will jeopardize direct negotiations with Israel to achieve a two-state solution."
Hamas' actions and inaction, the senators wrote, have "demonstrated it is not a partner for peace [as] Hamas has openly called for Israel’s destruction."
The letter also warned that "these troubling developments, including the role played by Hamas in the formation of the government, have undermined congressional support for U.S. assistance to the Palestinians."
The United States considers Hamas a terror organization. Citing the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 and the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2014, the senators reminded Obama that U.S. law bars "foreign assistance to Hamas or any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member or over which Hamas has undue influence."
"Any assistance should only be provided when we have confidence that this new government is in full compliance with the restrictions contained in current law," the letter said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday, "We made a decision as the United States government that our assistance to the Palestinian Authority is important to the United States. And so that's why it is continuing."
She said Washington would judge the Palestinian unity government "by its actions, and we will address issues as needed moving forward, but nothing has changed at this point in time."