In an interview published Tuesday in the London-based Al-Hayat, Dr. Ahmad Yousef, political adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said senior Hamas figures had held a secret meeting with advisers to Barack Obama in Gaza before the U.S. elections.
Throughout his campaign Obama’s official line was that he would “only talk with Hamas if it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and agrees to abide by past agreements.”
Yet Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal responded to Obama’s win on an optimistic note, telling Australia’s Sky News on Saturday that his organization was “ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind.”
On Saturday night, though, Obama’s senior foreign policy coordinator Denis McDonough seemed to hold the fort, deflecting Mashaal’s amiability by reiterating Obama’s three-part formula for making Hamas acceptable.
For those who don’t want America to have dealings with an Islamist terror organization like Hamas, that may have sounded reassuring. But now it seems it may be too soon to feel reassured.
According to Yousef in the Al-Hayat interview, the Obama-Hamas talks were already ongoing during the U.S. election campaign: “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 to reveal this information as it may influence the elections or become manipulated by McCain’s campaign.”
Yousef also claimed he personally had friendly relations with some of Obama’s advisers and that “Haniyeh will draft a congratulatory letter to Obama for his victory.”
Yousef added: “The policy Obama will instate in the Middle East will differ from that of his predecessor George W. Bush, although it is clear that the region and the Palestinian issue will not be at the top of his agenda. [Obama] will focus more on the economic crisis, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
A clash between Obama’s public, anodyne, mainstream statements and behind-the-scenes activities of a different nature would confirm the fears of those concerned about Obama’s history of association with radical people and ideologies.