Obama Is 'Prepared to Talk to Hamas'

Secret contact under consideration: sources

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 9, 2009 1:49 AM CST

(Newser) – President-elect Barack Obama is prepared to break with Bush administration policy and open lines of communication with Hamas, sources close to the transition team tell the Guardian. Advisors believe that ostracizing Hamas isn't working and support a move by Obama to quietly contact Hamas, perhaps through intelligence agencies—the same way earlier administrations engaged the PLO without Israel's knowledge, according to the sources.

"This is going to be an administration committed to negotiating with ­critical parties on critical issues," said one source. Analysts believe Obama won't want to be seen legitimizing Hamas as a result of the current conflict. Instead, contact is likely to happen if the organization suffers a decisive defeat. Richard Haass, who may be tapped as Obama's Middle East envoy, supports low-level contacts with Hamas provided there is a ceasefire in place and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.

Israelis hold signs referring to Barack Obama during a memorial rally marking the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv, Israel, late last year.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Barack Obama listens last year to Israel's President Shimon Peres, not seen, during a meeting in Jerusalem.   (AP Photo/Baz Ratner )
Palestinian painter Waleed Ayyoub adds the last touches on a painting he drew of Barack Obama in the West Bank city of Ramallah.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
President-elect Barack Obama makes remarks on the nations economy, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.   (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)
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The total isolation of Hamas that we promulgated under Bush is going to end. It is going to be hard for the neocons to swallow. - Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy ­Programme at the New America ­Foundation

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