TEL AVIV, Israel – Hamas is hopeful President Obama will open dialogue with the Islamist group and will employ a less pro-Israel approach than President Bush, the Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza told WND in an exclusive interview.
“We hear all the time statements (from Obama) promising change will come to the region, and that’s what we count on,” Ahmed Yousef said yesterday, speaking from his cell phone in the Gaza Strip.
“All the time the Israelis try to use their military might to destroy all chances of peace. Under Bush, America backed everything Israel did. Obama is someone who everyone looks to in a different way than Bush. He is willing to see thing differently and take a more evenhanded approach toward Israel,” said Yousef.
The Hamas official said he believes Obama could withhold U.S. financial support for Israel as a means of pressuring the Jewish state.
“This way there will be more pressure on Israel to expedite real serious talks regarding how we can achieve a peaceful settlement in the region,” Yousef added.
Yousef’s talk of peace and Israeli military raids ignored Hamas’ constant barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish civilian population zones that prompted a 22-day Israeli military raid that ended in January. The raid on Gaza was launched after Hamas refused to extend a cease-fire with Israel and amid multiple Hamas violations of the truce, including rocket attacks and attempted cross-border raids.
Hamas’ official charter calls for the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. The Islamist group is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilians.
Earlier this week, it was revealed a group of former senior American officials and one current top adviser to the Obama administration are petitioning the U.S. president to open talks with Hamas, believing the group can be part of the Palestinian peace process.
Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who was selected by Obama to head the president’s new economic recovery advisory board, reportedly signed a letter advocating dialogue with Hamas. The letter was also signed by nine other Washington veterans, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
Other signatories include Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to George Bush Sr., and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s security adviser. Brzezinski’s pro-Hamas views have been aired publicly in newspaper opinion pieces and policy speeches.
“I see no reason not to talk to Hamas,” Scowcroft told the Globe.
“The main gist (of the letter) is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process,” Scowcroft said. “Don’t move it to the end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the U.S. needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down.”
Also reportedly signing the letter were former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton; former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering; former World Bank president James Wolfensohn; former U.S. trade representative Carla Hills; Theodore Sorensen, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and former Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker.
The Telegraph of London reported the group is expected to be granted an audience at the White House as early as this week to make their case to Obama that lines of communication should be opened with Hamas.
Just last week, WND reported there was concern among Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization that the Obama administration already changed its attitude toward Hamas and may be ready to end the terrorist group’s isolation.
“Three years of the siege against Hamas is ending,” said a top PA negotiator, speaking from Ramallah on condition his name be withheld. “There is a new policy in the Obama administration regarding Hamas. We are concerned Hamas is starting to be a legitimate player in the equation of the Mideast and the PA.”
The negotiator met earlier this month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Asked by WND whether Clinton or any other U.S. official expressed direct support for opening U.S. dialogue with Hamas, the PA negotiator replied, “No. But there are troubling signs.”
He pointed to recent U.S. support for a unity government between Hamas and Fatah.
“This is the first time the U.S. has supported such a unity government. There was no objection from the U.S. about Hamas joining the PA,” he said.
He also pointed to Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s visit last month to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Massachusetts lawmaker’s reported acceptance of a letter from the Islamist group as “legitimizing Hamas.”
Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, became the most senior U.S. government official to enter Gaza since 2000. The senator announced his trip – which focused on U.N. facilities in Gaza – did not signal any change in U.S. policy toward Hamas, while it was reported he accepted a letter from the group to deliver to President Obama. A Kerry spokesman said the senator was not aware the letter, provided to him by a U.N. employee, originated with Hamas.
Mushir al-Massri, a Hamas spokesman and parliament member, told WND from Gaza: “Kerry can say there is no change, but Hamas controls Gaza. It’s very important that he came here. I hope next time the U.S. can more openly support Hamas.”
A spokesman for the State Department told WND yesterday there is no change in the U.S. policy of isolating Hamas.
Al-Massri, however, claimed Hamas is in direct communication with members of Congress.
“We are speaking to U.S. congressmen,” he claimed, “also members of the European Parliament.”