TEL AVIV – Former President Jimmy Carter presented Hamas with a written initiative intended to open talks between the Islamist group and the U.S. without Hamas having to accept all conditions previously laid out for dialogue by the American government, top Hamas officials told WND.
Those conditions, expressed twice by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are Hamas’ renouncement of violence, recognition of Israel and agreement to abide by previous PLO commitments. The conditions were adopted by the Mideast Quartet, which consists of the U.S., United Nations, Russia and the European Union.
Carter, however, handed Hamas last week a letter “that aims to open dialogue between Hamas and U.S.,” Mushir al-Masri, a member of Hamas’ parliament and a spokesman for the Islamist group, told WND today.
Two top Hamas sources told WND Carter’s initiative bypasses Clinton’s conditions and instead asks Hamas to recognize the so-called two-state solution as well as the Arab Peace Initiative.
Al-Masri said Hamas was studying Carter’s plan.
“In any response to Carter we will reject the conditions of the Quartet, specifically the recognition of Israel,” al-Masri said.
Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza Ahmed Yousef echoed that sentiment in a conversation today with WND.
The Arab Initiative, originally proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount.
The West Bank contains important Jewish biblical sites and borders central Israeli population centers, while the Golan Heights looks down on Israeli civilian zones and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
The Arab plan also demands the imposition of a non-binding U.N. resolution that calls for so-called Palestinian refugees who wish to move inside Israel to be permitted to do so at the “earliest practicable date.”
Palestinians have long demanded the “right of return” for millions of “refugees,” a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum warn is code for Israel’s destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Arabs, thereby changing its demographics.
When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel’s borders fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.
While most Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel and other countries, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been maintained in 59 U.N.-run camps that do not seek to settle the Arabs elsewhere. There are currently about 4 million Arabs who claim Palestinian refugee status with the U.N., including children and grandchildren of the original fleeing Arabs, Arabs living full-time in Jordan and Arabs who long ago emigrated throughout the Middle East and to the West.
The sources did not disclose the content of the purported message or whether the communication was written or oral. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because they said Hamas had not yet reached a decision on officially releasing the information they were divulging.
Separately, in an interview with WND on Thursday, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza Yousef refused to confirm or deny that any message was passed to his group from the White House.
Youssef said, however, Carter is the “right person” to serve as a middle man between Hamas and the Obama administration.
“If we have anything to communicate, Carter will be the right person to convey messages from the movement (Hamas) to this (Obama) administration or from the administration to the movement,” said Yousef, speaking from Gaza.
Yousef told WND he spent three hours with Carter on Thursday, holding private meetings and also showing the former president areas of Gaza that were damaged during Israel’s 22-day campaign against Hamas that ended in January.
“He promised he will write a report to explain what really is happening in Gaza,” said Yousef.
Separately, al-Masri said in a joint interview with WND and Israel’s Ynetnews.com, “We know Carter is not acting alone. He is acting as part of the large American system.”
Masri refused to confirm or deny whether Carter passed any message to his group from Obama.
Still, he claimed Hamas has “excellent relations with elements in the circle of the decision making in the U.S. administration.”
“We are appreciating the change in the attitude in the U.S. toward Hamas,” he said.
The White House did not respond to a WND request for comment on the report of the Obama administration passing a message to Hamas.