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Partners for peace

If this article from the Guardian is accurate, then Obama has indirectly broken his silence on Gaza. And the message from his camp strongly suggests Hamas will be allowed to survive.

The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George 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 state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 ­Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to 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, 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. ...

Richard Haass, a diplomat under both Bush presidents 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 that 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," the source said.

There are a number of options that would avoid a politically toxic scenario for Obama of seeming to give legitimacy to Hamas.

"Secret envoys, multilateral six-party talk-like approaches. The total isolation of Hamas that we promulgated under Bush is going to end," said Steve Clemons, the director of the American Strategy ­Programme at the New America ­Foundation. "You could do something through the Europeans. You could invent a structure that is multilateral. It is going to be hard for the neocons to swallow," he said. "I think it is going to happen."

Every nightmare begins with a dream. Salman Rushdie, who Christopher Hitchens once described as "Kashmiri by family, Muslim by birth, and Indian by partition" wrote about the transformation of his almost comically pacific birthplace into one of the world's great trouble spots. That transformation is embodied in the character of Shalimar the Clown, a fictional creation in one of his novels, who eventually becomes a Jihadi and assassin. Explaining why the sinister Shalimar was always referred to in his novel as "the clown", Rushdie said "I wanted to stress the sweetness of his beginnings."

Never forget though, that in the novel Max Ophuls, a U.S. diplomat who has worked in the Kashmir Valley, is murdered by Shalimar the Clown.