Should Hamas run in Palestinian Authority elections despite its being a terrorist group? The U.S. says it’s an “internal matter,” but, well, after all, maybe not.
Asked by a reporter at the State Department's daily news briefing if the United States supports the Palestinian Authority decision to hold new legislative elections, spokesman Mark Toner replied, “ It’s an internal matter. We have made clear what we believe Hamas needs to do to be a part of the political process.”
Toner then shied away from predicting the outcome of the vote, scheduled for May, although he noted that in the first and only parliamentary elections Hamas surprised the American government with a solid victory.
Declining to predict the outcome, Toner added, “What’s important here is that Hamas, to engage in the political process, needs to do the things we always talk about, which is give up violence, recognize past agreements, and pledge to be part of the democratic process and to not engage in terrorism.”
Another journalist did not let him get away without a clearer answer and pointedly asked, “Just so we’re clear… Hamas, from your point of view, is totally free to stand in these elections. They don’t have to meet those three criteria to stand in their own domestic elections; that’s just for them to take part in the peace process or the political – correct?"
Toner left the question hanging with a somewhat contradictory reply:
“We believe for them to be a credible political interlocutor, yes, they need to meet those three criteria,” he said. “So yes, I mean, this is an internal matter, but for them to be a credible part of the broader process, they need to.”