David Abrahams, the Newcastle property developer whose secret donations to the Labour Party caused a political scandal, is claiming to have met Hamas leaders in a personal Middle East peace mission.
In a letter sent to The Times for publication and shown to the JC, Mr Abrahams, a former treasurer of Labour Friends of Israel, wrote that he had “met elected Hamas leaders on several occasions” since they took office three years ago.
He stressed to the JC this week that he had gone privately as a “British subject”, not “as a member of the Jewish community or representing Israel”.
He would not divulge the contents or the frequency of the meetings or his interlocutors other than that “meetings were arranged by contacts on both sides, the majority taking place a hop, skip and a jump away from Jerusalem”.
Mr Abrahams said he was “not at liberty to reveal any names or positions of my contacts as meetings were totally private. Discussions were helpful and fruitful and entirely confidential but I was given the impression that Hamas were open for business and I was prepared to help in any way possible.”
Although he believed his contacts “understood” that he was Jewish, “they never asked me directly”.
Arguing in his letter that Western governments, including Israel, needed to talk to Hamas as well as Fatah, he said that the Hamas leaders he had met were “not belligerent in person. Most of them are technocrats, educated to a high level in Britain or the US”.
He wrote: “None genuinely believe they can drive the state of Israel into the sea. Their terrorist rocket attacks on Israel are more a cry for help, analogous to a suicide attempt, reflecting their desperation to be taken seriously.
“The only other diplomatic tool available to them is aggressive statements, and no doubt they will keep making them until a secure peace settlement has been established.”
He told the JC that when he had broached the Hamas Charter with them — which calls for an Islamic Palestine in place of Israel — “I was told that they felt this was one of the few weapons they had at their disposal; they knew it was not going to be practical to eliminate Israel.”
Commenting on Mr Abrahams’ peace initiative, Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said: “What people do privately can’t be helped. It is not a relationship we would endorse.
“In light of the EU being particularly critical of the role of Hamas in the recent conflict, we would not shift from the stated policy of the British government, the Quartet and the Israeli government, which is not to engage in negotiations with Hamas until the Quartet’s prerequisites are met [to recognise Israel and renounce violence].”
Mr Benjamin added: “We don’t see our role as brokering peace, we leave that to George Mitchell [President Obama’s Mid-East envoy] and Hillary Clinton [American Secretary of State].”
Hamas is believed to have tried to reach out in the past two or three years to diaspora Jews in an attempt to establish credibility.