Entries in Hamas (2)


White House Officials Say Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Is ‘Tenuous’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The Israel-Hamas cease-fire brokered by the Obama administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, and announced Wednesday is fragile, White House officials acknowledged.

“The way we view this is that it’s an important step,” a senior White House official said, “but our concerns are Egypt can’t control all of Hamas,” the ruling party in Gaza designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, “and Hamas doesn’t control every extremist with a rocket in Gaza. So there is a tenuous nature to this.”

But for now, senior White House officials say that from their perspective, three phone calls with Egyptian President Morsi seemed significant.

The president spoke to Netanyahu every day since the crisis began, but his first significant call with Morsi was on Monday, Nov. 19 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

President Obama left a dinner for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations a tad early to phone Morsi, aides said. They discussed ways to “de-escalate” the violence in Gaza and Israel, with President Obama underscoring “the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel,” aides said. The president offered his condolences for the loss of life in Gaza, as well as for the Saturday incident when a train collided with a school bus, killing more than 50 people most of them children.

He then spoke with Netanyahu, receiving an update on the situation, and expressing regret for the loss of Israeli lives.

The president then told his team that if Morsi called back to talk, they should wake him up. Morsi did so, at 2:30 a.m. Cambodia time. The president and Morsi spoke again.

Another senior White House official declined to get into the substance of the calls, but said the president was reviewing ideas with Morsi and Netanyahu, so it would be natural for him to follow up with Morsi after speaking to Netanyahu. The president told Morsi he intended to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region.

The next day, Tuesday, President Obama announced that Clinton would head to Egypt and Israel to try to broker a cease-fire. The president and Clinton, the second senior White House official said, talked about the Gaza-Israel fighting throughout the Asia trip.

The president Wednesday phoned both Morsi and Netanyahu “to seal the deal,” the first senior White House official said.

The president, this official said, was struck by the fact that Morsi “was being pragmatic. He wanted to get to yes.”

ABC News’ Reena Ninan asked Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security adviser for strategic communication, if Morsi was a better broker for peace than his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

“Egypt has been a critical part of our effort to manage that conflict and pursue peace,” Rhodes said. “That was the case under President Mubarak and it continues to be the case under President Morsi, who has upheld the peace treaty with Israel. What we’ve seen is, again, our engagement has been focused on practical and constructive cooperation that can reduce tensions but ultimately, again, it’s going to have to be Hamas within Gaza that takes the step of, again, not pursing rocket fire into Israeli territory. But we agree that Egypt can and should be a partner in seeking to bring about that outcome.”

Another interesting development, the White House official said, is that Hamas in this instance was looking to Egypt for leadership and not Iran, even though the latter country has been extremely supportive of Hamas.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dictator Tour or U.S. Diplomacy? Carter's Trip to Cuba Raises Eyebrows

Gary Miller/FilmMagic(HAVANA, Cuba) -- Jimmy Carter, who is in Cuba for a three-day private visit, will travel to North Korea soon in a move that has some questioning the former president's agenda.

Such trips are not unusual for Carter, 86, who in the three decades since he left office has often mediated, on an unofficial level, with pariah states.

In 2002, he became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since its 1959 revolution. He's traveled to a number of other world hot spots, including Gaza in 2009, where he met with the then-leader of the U.S. designated terrorist group Hamas.

"Carter has been brave and courageous in being unorthodox in his approach. What was once unorthodox has become the Carter orthodox, so going to Cuba right now is not surprising," said author and history professor Douglas Brinkley, who traveled with Carter to Haiti in the early 1990s. "His bully pulpit is the globe, not the White House. He's erased what they think about his track to diplomacy."

It's "Jimmy Carter going by the beat of his own drum," he added. "There are times that he raises eyebrows and it's all part and parcel of Carter's post-presidency. You can't really cherry pick them."

Though Carter has been mum on the issue of jailed U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, his release is likely to be a central topic of discussion in the former president's meeting with President Raul Castro, who invited Carter to Cuba.

Carter, a prominent figure on the international stage known for his diplomacy, traveled to Pyongyang in August 2010 to retrieve an American citizen, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who had been sentenced to eight years in prison for entering North Korea illegally from China that January.

While his efforts may not be as visible as those of former President Bill Clinton, those who follow his work say Carter has been more successful in this arena than any of his peers.

It could be days before Gross is on his way back home because of Carter's trip, Brinkley says.

"Carter has an extraordinary record, as ex-president of getting political prisoners released," Brinkley said. "I would expect that Gross will be out because of Carter's trip. You're just seeing the warm-up act. He's just arrived. When he's done there, Gross will be released because Carter's bringing the prestige towards the Cuban government that they're looking for out of an American figure of his stature."

Carter rarely travels as an official envoy, or with an official delegation, of the U.S. government, unlike Clinton. Of his upcoming North Korea trip, the State Department said they had not had any contact with Carter about it except to be informed of the trip.

His unorthodox style and rogue trips have often resulted in a clash with U.S. administrations. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio