Will Obama talk to Hamas?

A British newspaper says the president-elect will make a definitive break from Bush's Mideast policy

Barack Obama has change in mind for the Middle East, said Suzanne Goldenberg in Britain's Guardian. The president-elect plans to start clandestine, low-level talks with Hamas, according to sources close to the transition. If that happens, it will "represent a definitive break with the Bush presidency's ostracizing of the group."

Let's hope the Guardian's sources are right, said Christina Siun O'Connell in the blog Firedoglake. "Even a secretive and low-level approach would be a significant step in the right direction." The humanitarian situation for the Palestinians in the battle zone is getting "unbelievably worse" under Israel's new offensive, so a shift to dialogue can't happen fast enough.

It's hard to see how talking to genocidal Jew-haters is going to help anyone, said Robert Spencer in Jihad Watch. It will be hard for a lot of people to swallow—"not just 'neocons.'" And, since the whole plan is now out in the open, it will be impossible for Obama to touch base with Hamas secretly.

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Secrecy is crucial, said Eric Trager in Commentary. If the Obama administration can keep any communication with Hamas below the radar, it "might gain leverage vis-a-vis Hamas without granting it diplomatic legitimacy." But if even indirect talks become public, Hamas and other Islamists will be strengthened to the detriment of our allies in the region.

If Israel has learned anything from its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, said Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post, it's that it can't wipe out Hamas "by economic strangulation or force of arms." Now is the time to "to work with a fresh American administration on a smarter and more effective strategy for countering Iran and its clients—one grounded in politics rather than bombs."

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