A top Hamas leader and the Palestinian ambassador to Tunisia have thanked Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's Muslim Brotherhood-linked party, Ennadha, for his role in brokering last week's reconciliation deal between Fatah and the terrorist group.
Ghannouchi has been the most prominent Islamist leader in Tunisia for over 30 years and was banned from entering the U.S. during the 1990s because of his support for Palestinian terrorism.
The Obama administration lifted the ban in 2011 following the Arab Spring even though he never renounced his support for terrorism. He met with top State Department officials in Washington last year and during his most recent visit in February.
The Middle East Monitor reports that Khalid Meshaal, head of Hamas's political bureau, called Ghannouchi to discuss the status of intra-Palestinian relations and to thank him for his role in mediating the agreement. Hamas and Fatah signed the agreement ending seven years of sometimes violent feuding last Wednesday.
Ghannouchi helped mediate the longstanding rift between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas over a two-month period.
He similarly congratulated Meshaal and Palestinian Ambassador Salman al-Harfi, saying that their division weakened the "noble cause of the Palestinians" and that reconciliation was essential.
The deal does not mean that Hamas ready to renounce violence or accept Israel's right to exist.
Ghannouchi serves on the board of trustees for the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), headed by radical sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, which has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction. The IUMS also counts Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as a member.
Ghannouchi's biography on the IUMS's Arabic website is filled with praise for Hamas, saying that the "approach of Hamas in Resistance restored hope to the Islamic ummah" and has "given legitimacy to the Islamic movement."
He called Hamas's Qassam rockets an essential way to "create intimidation and balance in power" and to "strike terror" into the hearts of the Israelis during a February 2009 interview with Al-Hiwar TV.
Mediating the agreement could be a step toward his goal of getting "rid of the bacillus of Israel" before Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's target of destroying the Jewish state by the year 2027.
"I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this," Ghannouchi said in a May 2011 interview with the Qatari website Al-Arab.
Ghannouchi also enjoys warm relations with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), both of which have hosted him since the ban on his entering the United States was lifted.