Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama at the White House yesterday (White House photo)
Hamas is hopeful President Obama will open dialogue with the Islamist group in spite of congressional restrictions on such talks, Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, told WND in an exclusive interview today.
Yousef, speaking from Gaza one day after Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, said he believes Obama intends to “change” American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He called Obama a “smart and decent man.”
“Obama will show some kind of a change of U.S. policy toward the region and toward the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I do believe that he is still assessing the situation and is preparing for a (new) policy. He will meet with everyone in the region, and he will be crystal clear about his policy toward the peace process,” Yousef said.
Audio of Yousef’s comments is embedded here:
Yousef’s comments were contrary to a well-circulated statement from a Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, who was quoted by Israeli radio saying the goal of Obama’s stance during his meeting with Netanyahu yesterday was to “mislead global public opinion and to ensure the continuation of Israel’s existence as a racist state.”
Yousef told WND he himself is a member of the Hamas government but that “you may here different statements coming from different people.”
Asked if he believed Obama intends to open dialogue with Hamas, Yousef replied, “Yeah. Actually, there is (sic) signals.”
“Yeah, I do believe this will take time,” he said. “This is not an easy job since there is a restriction from the Congress, and there are laws and regulations that are preventing taking action without solving things with the Congress.
“So I know that he might himself believe that engaging with Hamas will help put an end to the conflict and also to enhance the American image all over the Arab and Muslim countries,” Yousef said. “Hamas is the answer if Americans are serious about its image in the Arab and Muslim world.”
Yousef said he expects Obama will make “strong statements” toward the Muslim world during a major address from Egypt next month.
“He will meet next month with the Egyptians, and I do believe he also will have a strong statement in Egypt and explain American attitudes,” said Yousef.
A White House spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Yousef’s remarks.
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.
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 the Boston Globe.
Other signatories include Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, 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.
Also in March, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. wants to work with all involved parties to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but she insisted Hamas must first abide by the preconditions for such talks.
“We are looking to work with all of the parties to try to help them make progress toward a negotiated agreement that would end the conflict,” Clinton told reporters during a joint news conference with U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
“Hamas knows the conditions,” she said. “They must renounce violence, they must recognize Israel, they must agree to abide by prior agreements.”
“We are not able to look into the future to see whether there will be changes on the part of Hamas that [would] meet our conditions but, you know, certainly that would be a clear path for them to follow,” Clinton added.