The Obama administration is aware of, but hasn’t officially approved, meetings by former U.S. diplomats with Hamas officials, one former envoy told Ynetnews.com The official, Robert Malley, special assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs under former President Bill Clinton, said President Barack Obama’s administration is aware of the meetings and suggested officials were receiving updates about the discussions, Ynetnews said Friday. While not denying it was being kept abreast of development, an administration official said it did not sanction the meetings. Malley, who advised Obama during his presidential run and maintains ties with administration officials, said he and former U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, along with senior European officials, met in Zurich last year with senior Hamas officials. Malley now is program director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group in Washington. Pickering is a co-chairman for the group’s board. Malley told Ynet he and Pickering met with Hamas officials as part of their ICG work, but made it clear to Hamas they weren’t acting as intermediaries for the U.S. government and that U.S. policy toward Hamas remains unchanged. Malley said similar meetings were conducted when George W. Bush was president. Hamas is included on the U.S. list of terrorist groups. A U.S. official told Ynetnews formal discussions with Hamas would occur only after the organization recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism.
The Hamas charter states that it is “one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an Israeli TV station has reported that in 2008, Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. An earlier media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations. Last June, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons.