Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail HaniyehIsrael News Photo: (Flash 90)

Hamas is claiming close and ongoing ties with America's upcoming Obama Administration, according to a report published Tuesday in the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat. The relationship was kept under wraps until after the U.S. elections so as not to harm Obama’s election prospects. The U.S. has classified Hamas a terrorist organization.

The London-based publication interviewed Gaza-based political chief Ahmad Yousuf, advisor to Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas regime in Gaza, which seized power in a bloody coup d’etat in 2007.  Yousuf declared that Hamas has been in regular contact with President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers for months.

"We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza," the Hamas official was quoted as saying, "but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as that may have had a negative effect on his election campaign and be used by Republican candidate John McCain."

We were in contact with a number of Obama's aides through the internet and later met with some of them in Gaza, but they advised us not come out with any statements as that may have had a negative effect on his election campaign...

Senior Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough flatly denied the claim, telling The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday afternoon, "This assertion is just plain false."

Contacts allegedly began during the presidential race and Yousuf expects the relationship to continue. He has also predicted that there will be "a change" in American foreign policy in the Middle East once Obama enters the White House. However, he said, the new president will focus more on domestic issues and pay less attention to the region "and the Palestinian issue" than did his predecessor.

Haniyeh sent Obama a telegram congratulating him on his "historic victory" in the U.S. elections, according to FrontPage Magazine.

Obama Advisor Malley's Role Uncertain

After the U.S. elections, President-elect Obama appointed Robert Malley as a senior foreign policy adviser.  Malley, who served as an “informal adviser” to the Obama campaign, was reportedly forced to sever his ties with the campaign six months ago, when The Times of London reported that he was meeting with Hamas representatives on a regular basis.  During the campaign Obama claimed he opposed contacts with the Hamas.

At the time, campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt stated that "Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past.  He has no formal role in the campaign. He will not play any role in the future."

FrontPage Magazine reported Tuesday that Obama has already dispatched Malley to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar Assad. The report cites an unnamed aide of Malley’s as stating that Malley's job is to explain 'that the Obama administration will take Egyptian and Syrian interests more into account' than did the outgoing Bush administration.

Last week Hamas called upon Obama to regularize contacts with the organization, but Obama stated he would not do so until Hamas renounces terror  and is willing to recognize Israel and its existing agreements with the Palestinian Authority. 

Related article: Obama 'Cozying Up to Syria'