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April 23, 2009

Hamas has had more international visitors since US President Barack Obama came to power, and they seem to be getting bolder.   Most of the international community backs Israel’s view that Hamas is a terrorist group, and refuses to deal directly with it, but calls for a rethink have increased since Mr. Obama came to power.  Some believe there are signs of a subtle change in mood.  A senior economic advisor to Mr. Obama, Paul Volcker, recently put his name to a paper which included a “more pragmatic approach to Hamas” among wider policy recommendations.  Meanwhile, Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel who advised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, recently co-wrote a book chapter asserting that “a peace process that excludes” Hamas is “bound to fail”.

Those who advocate dialogue with Hamas believe it will strengthen moderates from Hamas’s political wing, but others look at the rockets Israel says the group’s military wing is continuing to smuggle into Gaza, the fiery, anti-Semitic statements of Hamas-linked preachers and media outlets, and the group’s refusal to change its charter, and see no such hope.

Question to the Blogosphere:  Do you think Hamas should be included in negotiations about the future of the Middle East, or will they prevent talks from moving forward?  What are the motivations behind not working with Hamas?  According to Lakhdar Brahimi, when he was the chief negotiator in Afghanistan, his biggest regret was not bringing in the Taliban into the negotiations.  Do you think it would be a mistake not to bring in Hamas?  Would asking them to search for common ground with other Palestinians and Israels help give power to the moderate elements of Hamas?  Many groups have turned from guerrilla/terrorist organizations to legitimate political organizations.  Can you foresee this for Hamas?  How much does Hamas’ behavior hinder prospects for finding common ground in the Middle East?

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