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Obama camp 'prepared to talk to Hamas'
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 4:30 PM
Incoming administration will abandon Bush's isolation of Islamist group to initiate low-level diplomacy, say transition sources
The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon President Bush's doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.

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 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 in his administration, 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.

A tested course would be to start contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services - similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.

Richard Haass, a diplomat under both presidents Bush who was named by a number of news organisations this week as Obama's choice for Middle East envoy, supports low level contacts with Hamas provided there is a ceasefire in place and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation emerges.

Another potential contender for a foreign policy role in the Obama administration suggested the president-elect would not be bound by the Bush doctrine of isolating Hamas. "This is going to be an administration that is committed to negotiating with critical parties on critical issues," they said.

More
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/08/barack-obama-gaza-hamas
by Haaretz (reposted)
Friday Jan 9th, 2009 8:46 AM
U.S. president-elect Barack Obama is expected to engage Hamas in dialogue, after he takes office, the UK newspaper The Guardian reported on Thursday.

The Guardian quoted unnamed sources reportedly close to Obama's transition team, who said he has been urged by close advisors to launch low-level contact with Hamas.

The article said though there hasn't been any talk of Obama being in favor of direct negotiations with Hamas, a growing number of voices in Washington are saying the policy of isolating Hamas is not productive.

Regardless of the level of engagement, if Obama decides to reach out to Hamas, it would represent a stark break from the Bush presidency's policy of isolating the group.

The article mentions advisors to Obama who are reportedly in favor of talks with Hamas, including Richard Haass, a diplomat who served under both Bush presidents and who a number of news outlets have named as Obama's choice for Middle East envoy.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who has avoided commenting on foreign policy matters, said on Wednesday he will "engage immediately" in the situation in the Middle East when he becomes president.

Obama, who takes office on January 20, repeated that he was deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza but said he it would be imprudent to send signals that his incoming administration is running foreign policy.

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