Today’s Wall Street Journal reports,
JERUSALEM—Several high-profile former U.S. officials, some with close ties to the Obama administration, met with leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in recent months, raising hope inside the group that its views are being heard at the White House.
White House officials and participants in the talks emphasize the meetings weren’t sanctioned by Washington. U.S. officials say there has been no change to Washington’s insistence that Hamas take a number of steps before official dialogue can begin.
Still, the talks have been interpreted by some officials inside Hamas, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is run by the Palestinian Fatah party—a rival to Hamas—as a sign Washington may be softening its position toward Hamas…
Such informal “track two” meetings aren’t uncommon between former U.S. officials and Hamas. But the ex-officials involved in recent talks are seen as higher-profile figures in Washington’s diplomatic establishment. They are also seen as enjoying more foreign-policy heft with the administration than U.S. officials in the past.
“This administration is different from the previous administration,” said Hamas’ deputy foreign minister, Ahmed Yussuf, said in an interview. “We believe Hamas’s message is reaching its destination.”
“There were many meetings like this” in the past, Mr. Yussuf said. “But now, we know the people coming to see us are so much more connected to the White House.”
The US may also be planning to soften its stance toward Hizballah. Barry Rubin has described a letter he received from the Center for American Progress, an Obama-friendly think tank, in which his view on US engagement with Hizballah is solicited:
I read this letter—and that impression is confirmed by those knowledgeable about this project and those involved—as saying that the Center for American Progress is going to issue a report calling for U.S. engagement with Hizballah, and that it has been encouraged to do so by important officials in the Obama Administration…
They merely, I am told by those who know about this project, intend to talk to some who disagree for appearances’ sake and throw in a sentence or two to give the report the slightest tinge of balance.
Add this to the recent warming of relations between the administration and Syria, the lack of anything more than talk about Iran, and stir in the ‘crisis’ in relations with Israel manufactured by the administration, and we can perceive a troubling trend.
Since diplomacy is about give and take, let’s ask what the US expects to get from Hamas and Hizballah, and what it has to give in return.
The main thing it is not going to get is ‘moderation’. Hizballah, which exists in order to try to convert Lebanon from a multi-religious confederation into an Islamic state, a part of the Shiite caliphate to be established by Iran, as well as to act as the long arm of the Iranian regime in expunging US influence — that means Israel — from the Middle East, will not agree to deny its essence. Nor will Hamas, whose essence is a single-mindedly antisemitic project to rid the Middle East of ‘Zionists’.
But there’s a lot that the US can give them.
Hizballah, which has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group except al-Qaeda, wants protection against Israel. The Bush administration gave Israel a green light for several weeks in 2006 to crush Hizballah — which unfortunately the incompetent Olmert team was unable to do — but both sides are gearing up for another round. This time the political echelon — Netanyahu and Barak — are no fools militarily, and the weaknesses of the IDF that had developed over the years leading up to 2006 have been addressed. With all the rockets, new weapons and aggressive talk, Hizballah knows that once the tanks start to roll, only the US can save it.
Hamas desperately wants international recognition as a representative of the Palestinians, so that some or all of the huge amount of aid that flows to the parasitic Palestinian establishment will go to them, so that they can obtain more weapons and build a more powerful army with which to fight the Zionists. They want US pressure on Israel to open the blockade of Gaza for the same reason. And, like Hizballah, they want the US to intervene in the event of conflict.
Just as the Obama Administration has broken with the past and reneged on understandings with Israel in regard to Jerusalem and settlement blocs, one can expect that the American commitment to Israel’s security is not inviolate either. Promised weapons that are critical to a war with Hizballah have not been delivered.
At the beginning of last year, Israel was informed that the IDF would be out of Gaza before Barack Obama’s inauguration. J Street, which closely coordinates with the administration, called for an immediate cease-fire at the very start of Operation Cast Lead.
Is there any reason to think that Obama will act differently when the next war — likely a two-front affair with both Hamas and Hizballah — begins?