Barack Obama adviser urges talks with Hamas
Paul Volcker, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, has urged him to break with US policy and open talks with Hamas in order to test the militant group's willingness to join a unified Palestinian government.
Mr Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman who was picked by the president to head his new economic recovery advisory board, signed a letter with nine other Washington veterans and senior ex-officials urging him to open dialogue.
Other signatories of the letter, delivered to the president days before he took office, include Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first George Bush, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who performed the same role under Jimmy Carter.
The group is expected to be granted an audience at the White House as early as this week to make their case that lines of communication should be opened with the group
They are likely to make a forceful case given their personal experience of tortuous Middle East negotiations. "I see no reason not to talk to Hamas," Mr Scowcroft told the Boston Globe. "The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace process. Don't move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do."
Mr Obama has made peace in the Middle East a central goal of his presidency. Within days of taking office he appointed former senator George Mitchell, a heavy-hitting veteran of the Northern Ireland peace process, as a special envoy to the region.
Some in Washington see a rare opportunity to open talks with Hamas now that the group is discussing a unity government with Fatah, the more moderate Palestinian faction. Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2007 and has been shunned by the US for its refusal to renounce violence or recognize Israel's legitimacy.
Only HAMAS will know if it is the right time for political negotiations. Only HAMAS will know during any negotiations if they have enough concessions to go forward politically. In Ireland, our people have gone to Gaza and met with both ABBAS and HAMAS in an attempt for them to learn from Sinn Fein and the IRA's political strategy and negotiations. During this last visit as expected, Israel was not amused and refused to meet with Adams because Adams was talking to HAMAS. Video's below of interview with Ahmad Yousuf after meeting with Sinn Fein and another very short recent video with Adams on the Middle East conflict vs the Irish conflict.