JERUSALEM – Hamas has held meetings with U.S. officials to discuss ways the Obama administration can engage in open dialogue with the Islamist organization, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza told WND yesterday.
The Hamas leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said recent meetings with U.S. officials took place in Europe and that more meetings are scheduled in the coming days and weeks.
The Hamas leader claimed the U.S. asked his group to alter its political platform to accept a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.
Currently, Hamas’ official charter demands the entire state of Israel. The charter also calls for the murder of Jews.
The Hamas figure told WND the U.S. is willing to make public its relations with Hamas if his group moderates its vision. He said Hamas was also asked to negotiate the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of a larger rapprochement with Israel.
The Hamas leader told WND his group would not change its long-term position to reject Israel’s existence even if that would translate into an invitation for Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal to visit Washington.
The senior Hamas official did say his group is willing to accept a 10-year renewable cease-fire with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew to what is known as the pre-1967 borders – which means the entire West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
The Hamas leader would not name which U.S. officials his group allegedly met in recent weeks.
He said the meetings were led by Hamas officials in Syria and abroad. He said the meetings were coordinated by deputies of Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria.
Hamas asked to keep quiet on talks?
The Hamas leader’s comments to WND follow a report in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabia quoting a Hamas figure stating official and unofficial U.S. sources have asked the Islamist group to refrain from making any public statements regarding contacts with Washington.
That report also claimed a senior American official is due to arrive in an Arab country in the coming days to relay a telegram from the Obama administration.
Hamas has held meetings in the last year with former U.S. diplomats.
Last June, Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and the U.N. as well as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s deputy in the Clinton administration, met in Geneva with two Hamas leaders – Bassem Naim and Mahmoud al-Zahar. Naim is Hamas’ health minister, while al-Zahar is the chief of Hamas in Gaza.
Also last year, former President Jimmy Carter visited the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where he met with Hamas officials.
In a recent WND interview, Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, stated Hamas is hopeful Obama will open dialogue with the Islamist group in spite of congressional restrictions on such talks.
During Carter’s trip to the Gaza Strip, WND quoted senior sources in Hamas claiming Carter passed a message to Hamas from the Obama administration.
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, Yousef refused to confirm or deny that any message was passed to his group from the White House.
Yousef said, however, Carter is the “right person” to serve as a middleman 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.