Incoming U.S. President Barack Obama plans to open a "channel of communication" with the Hamas terrorist organization when he takes office on January 20, according to British newspaper the Guardian.
According to three sources "close to the transition team," Obama was unlikely to approve direct talks with Hamas initially. However, reported the Guardian, Obama "is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracizing Hamas is counterproductive. 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."
Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, said frankly that "The total isolation of Hamas that we promulgated under Bush is going to end."
Clemons added that the Obama team would most likely consider a multilateral approach that involves secret envoys talking simultaneously with various parties. "I think it is going to happen."
Hamas is officially listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, and the Congress in 2006 legally banned any funding to the group.
Financial assistance has, however, made its way to Hamas through the Fatah faction, which has paid its workers who live in Gaza by transferring funds to Gaza-based banks. Monies in Gaza banks are often seized by Hamas.
Fatah received millions of dollars in funding, equipment and new weapons both from the U.S. and other Western nations after the two factions split the Palestinian Authority government following the militia war that ended in Hamas seizing control of Gaza in June 2007.