Israeli civilians, rest assured: Hamas has promised the United States the organization would honor a 2009 “ceasefire” following Operation Cast Lead, in exchange for US recognition of the freedom fighters’ participation in the Palestinian Authority government. As such, Hamas has pledged not to fire rockets at Israeli civilians from its base in the Gaza Strip.
According to a report published Thursday on the BuzzFeed website, US officials extracted the far-reaching commitment during six months of secret talks between US and Hamas officials in Jordan, Egypt and Qatar. US Secretary of State John Kerry also warned the radical Islamic group that President Obama has his eye on the group and would be “monitor(ing)” the group over the next several months.
Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, more than 1,000 rockets and mortars have been fired at civilian targets in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The group made no commitment to refrain from drive-by shootings, suicide bombs, rocket attacks from Judea and Samaria, stoning Israeli cars, or anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement.
It is unclear from reports whether the freedom fighters were required to give promises to curb honor killings, to grant freedom of assembly to opposition groups or whether or not Hamas had pledged to distribute international aid to hospitals and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.
There is also no indication that Hamas was required to comply with long-standing US policy – recognise Israel’s right to exist, renounce terror, abide by previous agreements – in order to obtain Washington’s stamp of approval.
State Department officials claimed to have no knowledge of the secret negotiations and said that assertions of back channel talks were “completely untrue.” But BuzzFeed quoted at least one US official who said it was important to “have that line of communication” with yet another Islamist group in the Middle East.
“Our administration needed to hear from them that this unity government would move toward democratic elections, and toward a more peaceful resolution with the entire region,” said the US official.
In addition to a recognition and legitimacy, US sources said Wednesday that the Obama administration would continue to fund the Palestinian Authority, despite American law that bans funding terror groups.