Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hamas Reaches Out to Obama (Again)

For the second time since he took office, the Palestinian group Hamas has attempted to deliver President Obama a letter seeking to establish a dialogue with the U.S. “on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.”

On June 4 during Obama’s stopover in Egypt, where he delivered his landmark address to the Arab world, a delegation of journalists, social workers, professors and activists led by the group CODEPINK delivered the letter to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

In the letter, penned by Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Yousef, the group urges the President to visit Gaza and pledges to pursue “a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction to the international community and enlightened opinion expressed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human right organizations.”

The group called for an end to the siege on Gaza and a halt to settlement building and expansion. In 2004, the ICJ designated Israel’s construction of a wall separating the Palestinian territories and its occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “illegal.”

The letter was accompanied by a petition signed by more than 10,000 Americans asking Obama to go to Gaza to witness the impact of the recent Israeli invasion there and its ongoing blockade.

It’s not clear if President Obama received the letter; and while several news outlets have reported on it, the overture has been largely ignored by the mass media.

Hamas unsuccessfully attempted to deliver a letter to President Obama once before. Back in February Sen. John Kerry raised the ire of the Israeli government and some U.S. officials for accepting a letter from the United Nations Relief and Works agency -- written by a Hamas official -- during a trip to the Middle East.

Kerry turned the letter over to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, saying he did not read it and did not know it was from Hamas. Details of the contents of that letter were not made public.

According to press reports at the time, officials questioned whether the delivery of such a letter would violate the United States' policy toward Hamas. Obama has said his administration will not engage in diplomatic talks with Hamas unless the group renounces terrorism and affirms Israel's right to exist.

When and if they decide to do that, let’s just hope they don’t write it in a letter.