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. (Read more Gaza stories.)