Paul Gordon Collier- The US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro spoke on Israeli TV Saturday night and outlined a conditional support of the ongoing Gaza ground offensive. Shapiro appeared on Channel 2 News.
Shapiro acknowledged Hamas as a terror organization when he said, “At the end of this conflict, we’ll seek to help the moderate elements among the Palestinians to become stronger in Gaza. They might be able to run Gaza more effectively than Hamas, a terror organization.”
Having said that, Shapiro was not ready to overtly condemn Hamas as a Terrorist Organization, despite numerous attempts by the Channel 2 News interviewers to get him to commit to such statement. The Ambassador did offer support for Israel’s ‘right to self defense’, but offered a condition on America’s support.
“At the same time, we worry about injury, after a further escalation to civilians and trust that Israel will continue its activities in a way that minimizes the harm to civilians.” Shapiro stated in response to a question about the nature of US support for Israel.
The tail end of the interview found Shapiro denying rumors that the US was attempting to negotiate a cease-fire unilaterally with Hamas, one that offered Hamas ‘strategic advantages’ that Israel, and even neighboring Arab States like Saudi Arabia (who do not wish to see a strong Hamas in their backyard) would not support.
Shapiro denied the rumors and assured the interviewers that America was not involved in any secret, unilateral talks with Hamas.
The fact that the US Ambassador to Israel referred to Hamas as a terrorist organization, without fully condemning Hamas, is a significant move from this administration, It remains to be seen if other administration officials will follow up on the statement made by Shapiro or if this was the expression of just one member of the administration.
They other key point was the conditions Shapiro offered for America’s continued support of the ground war. The message seems to be that America will support a limited response from Israel, but not a full-on assault of the Gaza territory. Senator Kerry is due in Egypt this week to begin cease fire negotiations with Israel, Hamas and Egypt. This follows a letter sent by House Democrats last week urging the Administration to broker a cease-fire.