Is Obama "Prepared to Talk to Hamas"?

The UK Guardian is reporting that the "incoming administration will abandon Bush's isolation of Islamist group (Hamas) to initiate low-level diplomacy" according to sources within the transition team.

The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush ­presidency's ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 ­Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.

The Guardian has spoken to three ­people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive.

Interestingly enough, some of the push for ending Hamas' isolation is coming from major players in the US foreign policy establishment including Richard Haass, the President of the New York-based Council of Foreign Relation and from Martin Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel.

There is ­growing agreement, among Republicans as well as Democrats, on the need to engage Hamas to achieve a sustainable peace in the Middle East - even among Obama's close advisers. In an article published on Wednesday on the website Foreign Affairs, but apparently written before the fighting in Gaza, Haass, who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote: "If the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continues to hold and a Hamas-PA reconciliation emerges, the Obama administration should deal with the joint Palestinian leadership and authorise low-level contact between US officials and Hamas in Gaza." The article was written with Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and an adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Why talk with Islamists? Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry of the DC based Middle East Institute have dealt with this issue for many years, and they outlined three options facing the West with regards to political Islam: (1) engage them militarily, which has been proven to be ineffective; (2) ignore them, which does not confront the problem; (3) or talk to them, which carries risks, but is the only realistic option available.

Realism in foreign policy, imagine that.

Tags: Hamas, Obama Foreign Policy, US Mid-East Policy (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

Talk to Hamas

The current approach to the crisis is unbearable. I truly hope that Obama will drastically change the policy of the United States. Europe is struggling to understand why the states continue to support Israel blindly, with the expense of civilians. The UN resolution passed with only US abstaining from the vote.

If you want to be leaders of the free world

Lead.

by rsoderlund 2009-01-08 09:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Obama "Prepared to Talk

Something that was really weird during the election campaign was that it was okay to talk to Iran (I agree with this) but oh no, of course we'd never talk to Hamas, that's unthinkable!

I understand the logic behind talking with Hamas but I don't understand what's going on with these statements appearing in the paper.  Especially considering the whole "one president at a time" thing, you don't just go around idly musing about talking with Hamas while the conflict is still raging with Israel.

Either someone was talking out of turn (big problem, especially when the subject is foreign policy) or else it's calculated.  But if it's calculated, exactly what message is being sent and to whom?  Interesting game.

by Steve M 2009-01-08 09:59PM | 0 recs
So there IS going to be a difference

between Obama I/P policy and neocon I/P policy.  Somebody keeps telling me that I am insane for suggesting that that may be the case.

Perhaps they don't know what they're talking about.

by lockewasright 2009-01-09 04:30AM | 0 recs
No

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054008. ht

Last update - 00:55 10/01/2009    

Obama aide denies report he will launch low-level contact with Hamas  

"The President-elect has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by past agreements," said Brooke Anderson, chief national security spokesperson for the Obama transition team.

"The President elect's repeated statements are accurate," added Anderson. "This unsourced story is not."  


by oc 2009-01-09 02:25PM | 0 recs
For those who like working links...

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1054008. html

by oc 2009-01-09 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: For those who like working links...

My sense is that if Richard Haass is for talking to Hamas then it will happen. Blessed be the gatekeepers. Haass is one hell of a gatekeeper. It's not what being said that matters but rather who is saying it.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-09 02:59PM | 0 recs

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