Experts divided on negotiating with Hamas

March 16, 2008 at 10:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was an intermediary between Hamas and the Israeli government during her recent trip to the Middle East, officials said.

The Washington Post reported that the United States has long considered Hamas a terrorist group, and the White House has resisted direct talks with the Palestinian group until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

The newspaper reported that Rice privately asked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to issue a public statement that Israel would stop military attacks if Hamas stopped firing crude rockets at Israel.

But some U.S. foreign policy experts say Rice, or anyone else in the U.S. government, should not be negotiating with Hamas.

"It would give the sense that the world has to adjust to them, and immediately demoralize the Palestinians you want to work with," said Dennis Ross, who was a negotiator during the Clinton administration.

However, a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts, including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, issued a statement before the Annapolis peace talks in November saying that the U.S. is well to meet with Hamas.

"As to Hamas, we believe a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation," they said.

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