* No doubt they will be saying Barack Obama is a Mossad agent next
* Massive Hamas rocket fire at Israel “celebrates Obama victory”
* Did Obama lie about firing anti-Israel advisor Robert Malley?
* Hamas in Al-Hayat today: We are in touch with Obama’s aides
* Ha’aretz: Netanyahu and Obama have “good personal chemistry”
* Olmert: “Bush’s name will be etched in gold letters in the annals of the State of Israel”
* Olmert: Behind the scenes, in matters I cannot make public, Bush did more than you will ever know to help Israel
(Some of this dispatch – on the mixed reactions in the Middle East to Barack Obama’s election victory – was written last week, but I was unable to post it until now for health reasons.)
EXTRA NOTE: The Associated Press today reported that next week the IAEA will confirm that they have found traces of uranium at the suspected Syrian nuclear site bombed last year by Israel.
1. Rahm Emanuel’s Israeli connections
2. “It was like something out of The Godfather”
3. To the White House and back, via the West Wing
4. Mixed feelings in Israel about appointment of Rahm Emanuel
5. Yitzhak Rabin aide: “To be honest, Obama doesn’t make us sleep well at night”
6. Commentator on al-Jazeera: “Rahm Emmanuel is an officer in the Israeli Mossad”
7. Jewish far left shocked by appointment of Emanuel
8. Arab media: “The U.S. Democrat Party is like a snake that kills you slowly”
9. Ahmadinejad congratulates Obama, urges “real change”
10. That vast Jewish rightwing conspiracy
11. Peres: “Nobody should look at whose side Obama is on. He just has to be on the side of peace”
12. Tzipi Livni warns of discord with Obama over Iran
13. Ehud Barak on Iran: All options open, whatever U.S. policy
14. Obama appears to toughen his Iran stance
15. Ha’aretz: fears that Obama will force Israel to give up its own nuclear option
16. Sadness in Israel that bush is leaving office
17. Olmert heads to D.C. to ask for last favors from Bush
18. Israeli politicians and newspapers heap praise on Bush
19. Bush was also “the father of the Palestinian state”
20. Massive Hamas rocket fire at Israel “celebrates Obama victory”
21. Hamas: we are in touch with Obama’s aides
22. Did Obama lie about firing anti-Israel advisor Malley?
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
RAHM EMANUEL’S ISRAELI CONNECTIONS
The first prominent appointment announced by Barack Obama since winning the U.S. presidential election last week was that Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel will be his White House chief of staff.
The chief of staff is one of the closest advisers to the president. He usually decides who gains access to him, and helps develop administration policies. Former chief of staffs who have gone on to higher postings include Dick Cheney (chief of staff to Gerald Ford from 1975-77) and James Baker (who was Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff from 1981-85).
Emanuel, 48, is the Chicago-born son of former Israelis. He grew up speaking Hebrew with his father Benjamin, a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Jewish underground in Palestine in the 1930s and 40s.
The Emanuel family were originally called the Auerbachs, but after their uncle Emanuel was killed by Arab terrorists in Jerusalem in 1933, the family adopted his first name as their surname.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Rahm Emanuel went to Israel to serve as a civilian volunteer. He has not “served in the Israeli army,” as some British and other news reports have stated.
Emanuel was a senior advisor to Bill Clinton during his term in the White House and was first elected to Congress in 2002.
A devout Jew, he reportedly obtained a special waiver from his rabbi in order to work through the holiday of Rosh Hashanah during the $800 billion Wall Street bailout last month.
“IT WAS LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF THE GODFATHER”
Many Republicans and some Democrats have questioned why Obama’s first key appointment was a Washington insider and fiercely partisan “take-no-prisoners” Democrat. “Obama’s first decision as President-elect undermines his promise to ‘heal the divides’,” said the Republican National Committee spokesman.
Emanuel has a reputation for being a master strategist but also a highly partisan fighter in the rough world of Washington politics.
Nicknamed “Rahmbo,” he is known for his fierce temper and for using language that might have made Richard Nixon blush.
At the height of the Monica Lewinsky affair, he told British Prime Minister Tony Blair before a joint public appearance with Bill Clinton: “This is important. Don’t f*** it up.”
He sent a dead fish to a pollster and attacked a dining table with a steak knife while cursing the names of Democrats he accused of being disloyal to Clinton. “When he was done the table looked like a lunar landscape,” a witness said. “It was like something out of The Godfather. But that’s Rahm for you.”
As one blogger put it, Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff is “Change you can f****** believe in.”
(Here is Obama speaking about Rahm Emanuel in a joking way in 2005.)
TO THE WHITE HOUSE AND BACK, VIA THE WEST WING
Life seems to be imitating art. Emanuel was the model for the fictional character Josh Lyman in the award-winning series The West Wing.
This was a result of the fact that “Josh” was created by Aaron Sorkin and played by Bradley Whitford, both of whom are clients of the Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, Rahm’s brother.
Like Josh, Rahm Emanuel worked on a president’s first victorious campaign. After his win in 1992, Bill Clinton said, “I doubt we could have won without Rahm Emanuel.”
As President Clinton’s political director, Emanuel’s style upset a lot of people and he made mistakes that led to his being demoted on the orders of Hillary Clinton. But he stayed on in the Clinton White House and clawed his way back into favor.
Josh Lyman, too, lost some power and influence after making a mistake early on. He, too, recovered. In the plot line in the final series of The West Wing, Josh leaves the White House to run the presidential campaign of a long-shot ethnic-minority candidate who triumphs and makes him his chief of staff.
Rahm’s brother, Ari, whose other Hollywood clients include Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat), Mark Wahlberg and Larry David, also has a character modeled after him in a TV series: “Ari Gold” in the series Entourage.
MIXED FEELINGS IN ISRAEL ABOUT APPOINTMENT OF RAHM EMANUEL
There is some trepidation in Israel about Rahm Emanuel.
Israeli officials note that some of the toughest officials towards Israel in the Clinton White House were American Jews (or Americans of Jewish origin) who bent over backwards to prove that they did not suffer from “dual loyalty”.
While Rahm Emanuel does not appear to be anti-Israel, he was one of a group of left-leaning Israeli and American Jews who kept pushing the Oslo “peace process” forward in the 1990s, forcing the Israeli government to make more and more concessions regardless of the fact that Yasser Arafat was flouting the agreements he had already signed by stockpiling enormous quantities of weapons in Gaza and the West Bank and educating an entire generation of Palestinian schoolchildren on the virtues of suicide bombing. This helped lead to the bloody intifada that broke out in the last year of Clinton’s presidency and resulted in thousands of Israeli and Palestinian deaths.
“THE ISRAELI NEGOTIATING TEAM WAS WARY OF EMANUEL”
Israeli diplomats recount that during the negotiations over the Wye accords in 1998, the Israeli team headed by then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was especially wary of one of Bill Clinton’s aides: Rahm Emanuel. “His fluent Hebrew, his instinctive grasp of the ‘Israeli’ mindset and his complete loyalty to his president made the Israelis afraid to talk when he was nearby.”
“He has a kind of directness and coarseness that is very familiar to Israelis,” a senior Israeli diplomat told Ha’aretz. “But it doesn’t necessarily bring him closer to us. One thing is certain – Israelis will not be able to pull the wool over his eyes.”
“HE WILL NOT HAVE MUCH PATIENCE WITH ISRAELI EXCUSE-MAKING”
Israelis are now concerned that Emanuel will use his legendary toughness to pressure them into making another round of concessions without first ensuring Palestinian leaders are committed to peace which could once again lead to an outbreak of severe Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Emanuel’s friend Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic magazine, said: “Rahm, precisely because he’s a lover of Israel, will not have much patience with Israeli excuse-making, Rahm will call out such nonsense and it will be very hard for Israelis to come back and accuse him of being a self-hating Jew.”
YITZHAK RABIN AIDE: “TO BE HONEST, OBAMA DOESN’T MAKE US SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT”
There is also considerable anxiety in Israel about Obama across the political spectrum.
* “To be honest, Obama doesn’t make us sleep well at night,” Eitan Haber, who was a senior aide and negotiator for former center-left Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, wrote in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper last month, in an editorial titled “Obama’s victory could signal bad times for Israel.”
* In another editorial last week, Yediot Ahronot wrote “The decisive majority of Israelis held their fingers for the Republican candidate, John McCain and are now wondering, ‘Is Obama good for the Jews?’ Let us hope he will not substantially change the traditional line of friendship and a special relationship between Israel and the U.S.”
* A comment piece in Yisrael Hayom said: “Over the years, Israel has found it easier to deal with two types of presidents: The emotional; and those with a deep understanding of foreign affairs. Obama is neither. He has neither Clinton’s emotionalism nor Bush and Nixon’s understanding of foreign affairs. From Israel’s perspective, he more resembles President Carter.”
“THE DEMOCRATS ARE MUCH MORE REALISTIC TODAY ABOUT THE PALESTINIANS THAN THEY WERE IN THE PAST”
However, the paper does not think that the Obama administration will pressure Israel because “It will be preoccupied, at least initially, with domestic issues. Also, in recent years, the Democrats have realized that the Palestinian side lacks the necessary infrastructure to live up to what they promise. The Democrats are much more realistic today than they were in the past and this fact is likely to be to Israel’s benefit in the end.”
* By contrast, another Israeli commentator told Bloomberg news: “We know that there will be tremendous pressure on the Israeli government. We know that Obama is bringing back the old team from the Clinton administration that pushes Israel to make stupid mistakes and we hope they will not repeat their mistakes once again.”
* Ben Dror Yemini, lead commentator for Ma’ariv, said: “While some are acting as though the messiah has arrived, they are ignoring how problematic this choice of president is, in many respects.”
“OBAMA GOOD FOR ISRAEL IF HE CAN RESTORE AMERICA’S POWER”
* But Ron Ben-Yishai, writing on Ynet, said: “If Obama will be good for America, Israel will benefit as well. What is truly important to Israel’s security are the economic power and military-strategic determination that America conveys, as well as its position as a superpower on the global stage, as Israel benefits from an American deterrence umbrella.
“As America’s status as a global power is mostly affected by its economic and technological power, the next president’s ability to address the financial crisis in the U.S. is of critical importance for Israel too.
“The next president will be good for Israel should he be able to restore his country’s economic and diplomatic power, extract its army from the Iraqi quagmire, and leverage his election victory in order to unite the American people behind his policies.”
BIBI AND OBAMA HAVE “GOOD PERSONAL CHEMISTRY”
* Ha’aretz reports that Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed good personal chemistry with Obama during their meetings, more so than Tzipi Livni did with Obama.
COMMENTATOR ON AL-JAZEERA: “RAHM EMMANUEL IS AN OFFICER IN THE ISRAELI MOSSAD”
Many Arab and European critics automatically assume that Rahm Emanuel must be “fiercely pro-Israel.”
“With the appointment of this Zionist, Barack Obama is proving that he is more Zionist than the Zionists,” said Subhi Abu Ishira on the Palestinian NGO network.
The “Window into Palestine” blog called Rahm Emanuel “the son of a terrorist, a real living terrorist.”
Hassan Hamadah, a Lebanese journalist and commentator, told al-Jazeera TV: “A few hours ago, there was an announcement about the appointment of Rahm Emanuel as the chief of staff of the White House, which is, in fact, the prime minister of the administration, the prime minister of the U.S. president. Rahm Emmanuel is an officer in the Israeli Mossad, and he served in the Israeli army.”
Of course many conspiracy theorist anti-Semites in the Arab media (as well as some in the European media) see the hidden hand of the Jews and Israel everywhere and blame them for all the world’s ills, in much the same way as the Nazis did.
No doubt they will be saying Barack Obama is a Mossad agent next.
JEWISH FAR LEFT “SHOCKED” BY APPOINTMENT OF EMANUEL
On the other hand, the Jewish far left in America regard Rahm Emanuel’s appointment as a sign that Obama won’t be anti-Israeli enough.
For example, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the leftist Tikkun magazine, released a widely-circulated “news advisory for journalists” titled “Rahm Emanuel is no Reason for Hope or Celebration.”
He wrote: “Election night, tens of millions of us wept for joy. We sang the songs that we had sung as young men and women when we were fighting segregation in the south and then in the north, some of us being beaten, others jailed, some even killed. For the first time in three decades we could sing ‘Imagine’ and ‘The times they are a changing’ without feeling that we were holding onto utopian fantasies that had been buried by the cynical realists who have shaped public discourse.
“... We could hardly believe our own eyes. We were living through the rebirth of a nation... so no wonder why many of us were shocked and deeply disappointed when we learned on Thursday that Congressman Rahm Emanuel was to be the Chief of Staff in the Obama White House.
“... Emanuel has a long history of militarist ideology behind him. His father was a member of the ultra-right-wing terrorist organization Etzel. Emanuel himself ... has been one of several Congressional leaders enforcing the ‘Israel Lobby’ consensus.
“... The Rahm Emanuel selection is an early warning that the peace and justice agenda dropped by Obama after he won the Democratic nomination may be permanently on hold, and the progressives themselves may have to settle for ‘access’ and flowery words at an inauguration address rather than the substance of change.”
ARAB MEDIA: “THE U.S. DEMOCRAT PARTY IS LIKE A SNAKE THAT KILLS YOU SLOWLY”
While many in the Muslim Middle East have expressed satisfaction, if not outright joy, at Obama’s election, some have not. The Egyptian media quoted the leading Sunni sheikh, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as saying that “the American Democrat Party is like a snake that kills you slowly without you noticing.”
The Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Elsami targeted Obama himself. In an article headlined “That black man will never change U.S. policy,” it wrote: “The most that that black man can do is to replace some of the staff. He will never manage to change the structure of the American regime, which was established by capitalists, Zionists and racists.”
A commentator in the Iranian publication Kayhan on Sunday said: “Some reformists talk of Obama as if he is a divine prophet. Obama too is part of the Great Satan.”
The Beirut Daily Star wrote that “while Obama may be sincere in changing U.S. policy, he will face an entire subculture that operates within the American political arena... widely known as the ‘Israel’ or ‘Jewish’ lobby that he will be unable to overcome.”
A more moderate view was expressed by Daoud Al-Shiryan, columnist for the London-based Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat and deputy director of Al-Arabiya Television. “The U.S. elections afford a kind of change that does not occur in the Arab ‘democracies’... The faces in the White House change in a way that we find impressive,” he wrote.
AHMADINEJAD CONGRATULATES OBAMA, URGES “REAL CHANGE”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent Obama an unusual letter of congratulations – the first time an Iranian leader has congratulated the winner of a U.S. presidential election since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad, and we will respond appropriately,” Obama said on Friday, leaving open the question about whether he will reply. President Bush chose not to respond to a rambling 18-page letter he received from Ahmadinejad in 2006.
In his campaign for the presidency, Obama said he would be ready to talk to Iranian leaders without preconditions. The Bush administration has long insisted that Iran stop enriching uranium before any high-level negotiations can begin; Iran has resisted those demands.
Syria also congratulated Obama. Syrian information minister Mohsen Bilal said he hoped that the new U.S. president would put more pressure on Israel.
THAT VAST JEWISH RIGHTWING CONSPIRACY
... often hinted at in the European leftist media, doesn’t seem to exist.
According to exit polls, 78% of American Jews voted for Obama.
These numbers were even more striking than those in the 2004 election, when Democratic candidate John Kerry received 74 percent of the Jewish vote. Al Gore received the highest ever percentage of Jewish votes, in 2000, with 79 percent.
According to exit polls, a record 89 percent of American Muslim voters picked Barack Obama last week.
PERES: “NOBODY SHOULD LOOK AT WHOSE SIDE OBAMA IS ON. HE JUST HAS TO BE ON THE SIDE OF PEACE”
Officially, all Israel’s leading politicians congratulated Obama (as did all Palestinian ones, including the heads of Hamas).
President Shimon Peres – one of the few politicians in the world who is as eloquent as Obama – said: “It was an American election and a worldwide choice. I don’t recall any other election that practically all of humanity was following with hope and concern. I want to congratulate the newly-elected President: young, fresh, promising, representing a change and introducing change.
“... In a way, it is also an end of racism. There is no longer any way that any white man can claim superiority. We are the same people, and this election is a great statement to that effect.”
“I also have the utmost respect for the other candidate John McCain, who fought with great courage and stamina. And when it was over, they shook hands together. For us, America is a great friend and a great hope. When President Obama was here, he asked me what he can do for Israel. My answer was: be a great President of the United States of America. If you will be a great President of the United States of America, you will have great promise for Israel as well, and for all of the region and for all of our neighbors. Nobody should look at whose side the President is on – he just has to be on the side of peace. And if he will be on the side of peace.”
TZIPI LIVNI WARNS OF DISCORD WITH OBAMA OVER IRAN
There is, however, great concern in Jerusalem over Obama’s Iran policy.
Israeli Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni, leader of the center-left Kadima party, said on Thursday that U.S. talks with Iran on its nuclear program may be “problematic,” highlighting possible disagreements with a Barack Obama administration. “Dialogue at this point may be interpreted as a sign of weakness,” Livni told Israel radio.
“I think that premature dialogue at a time where Iran thinks that the world has given up on sanctions may be problematic,” she said of Obama.
And last night, Livni spoke by phone with U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden and pleaded with him to maintain a tough American stance on Iran and Hamas. “It is of the utmost importance that we keep up our coordination against the Iranian threat because time is not on the side of the moderates,” she was quoted as saying to Biden, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.
EHUD BARAK ON IRAN: ALL OPTIONS OPEN, WHATEVER AMERICAN POLICY
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday that Jerusalem may not be able to wait that much longer to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Barak said that whatever American policy may now be, “for Israel, all options are open.”
OBAMA APPEARS TO TOUGHEN HIS IRAN STANCE
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke at length by phone to Barack Obama on Thursday night.
Besides congratulating him, Olmert also raised concerns over the issue of Iran.
A few hours later, on Friday lunchtime, Obama gave his first (and so far only) press conference since winning the election. And for people like myself, who regard a nuclear Iran and the almost inevitable nuclear arms race across the Middle East and beyond that will almost certainly follow, as the world’s most pressing concern, even more so in the long run than the economic crisis, it was reassuring that Obama mentioned Iran as his first foreign policy matter.
Indeed in a carefully stage-managed press conference, where all the journalists’ questions were reportedly vetted by the Obama team in advance, Obama said that stopping Iran going nuclear was of paramount importance. Surprisingly, given the level of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama did not mention those issues in the press conference, nor other foreign policy concerns like Russia and Pakistan. The Iranian nuclear program was the only foreign policy topic he addressed, and he did so in a way that appeared to distance himself from some of the statements he made during the campaign. There was no longer any talk of meeting the leaders of the Iranian regime without preconditions.
It is possible that Obama only prioritized Iran in order to try and allay fears in Israel. Many in Israel are calling for action to be taken now, while the friendly President Bush remains in office, and not to wait for a more uncertain period under Obama.
HA’ARETZ: FEARS THAT OBAMA WILL FORCE ISRAEL TO GIVE UP ITS OWN NUCLEAR OPTION
In an editorial, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper Ha’aretz wrote: “The Iranian question is likely to cause disputes between Jerusalem and Washington.”
Ha’aretz said there is great deal of fear in Israel that Obama “will be too soft on Iran while Iran continues to arm itself with nuclear weapons under the cover of diplomatic dialogue. Further, tensions between Jerusalem and Washington will increase if the U.S. is enticed to accept a deal to close Dimona [in Israel] in return for shutting Iran’s Natanz weapons site or halting Iranian nuclear development as part of an overall regional agreement for disarmament, which will naturally focus on Israel.”
OLMERT HEADS TO D.C. TO ASK FOR LAST FAVORS FROM BUSH
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert will visit President Bush in Washington later this month in an attempt to reach last minute agreements and extract a number of promises before both leaders step down. Olmert is looking for commitments from Bush on questions relating to borders and refugees in any final agreement with the Palestinians, and in relation to various aspects of military cooperation.
Ha’aretz asked in a news analysis: “While Olmert is still looking for promises from Bush, the real questions being asked in Jerusalem relate to president-elect Barack Obama. Will the new American president cut military aid to Israel or will he keep his predecessor’s agreements with Israel? How will he handle Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and will he support Israel’s security requirements?
SADNESS IN ISRAEL THAT BUSH IS LEAVING OFFICE
There is much sadness in Israel that President George W. Bush, the most pro-Israel American president ever, is leaving office.
As well as more prominent public measures to support Israel, Bush did much behind the scenes to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism at international forums, and to assist in strengthening military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. Bush did this out of deep-rooted ideological reasons, not because American Jews support the Republicans. Indeed prominent American Jewish commentators such as Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman can barely find a good word to say about him. In much the same way, Bush did more than any previous president to help Black Africans, and “George Bush” is now a popular name for babies in several African countries. Bush did so for humanistic reasons, not because African-Americans were likely to vote Republican.
ISRAELI POLITICIANS AND NEWSPAPERS HEAP PRAISE ON BUSH
Speaking during what was probably Condoleezza Rice’s last visit to the region as U.S. secretary of state, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni applauded “a bilateral relationship which has been truly strengthened under the leadership and vision of President Bush ... His contribution will never be forgotten.”
Prime Minister Olmert said: “I would also like to offer a word in warm appreciation for President Bush. His name will be etched in gold letters in the annals of the State of Israel. I cannot share everything that I know with the public, nor even with all members of the government but those who know, know. President Bush is a great friend of the State of Israel and of the Jewish People. I think that he deserves the praise, esteem and profound gratitude of every resident of the State of Israel.”
In its main editorial yesterday, Israel’s largest paper, Yediot Ahronot, also commended Bush’s support for Israel in its war against Palestinian suicide terrorism, the suicide terrorism which resulted in part from the misguided policies of the Clinton administration. The paper also thanked Bush for his firm commitments in trying to help give Israel defensible boundaries.
BUSH WAS ALSO “THE FATHER OF THE PALESTINIAN STATE”
It is worth noting that Bush has not only been “pro-Israel” but “pro-Palestinian.” He went beyond his predecessor, Bill Clinton, in formally calling for the creation of a Palestinian state.
He endorsed a “road map” for peace that remains the basis of current negotiations. And last year he relaunched the peace process in Annapolis, Maryland, securing the backing of Arab leaders.
The U.S. has given an unprecedented $700m this year to the Palestinian Authority. Rice noted that her presence in Jenin, where she gave a press conference last Friday, and scene of much violence during the intifada in 2002, was a measure of the progress made.
MASSIVE HAMAS ROCKET FIRE AT ISRAEL “CELEBRATES OBAMA VICTORY”
Within hours of Barack Obama being declared the winner last week, there was a massive barrage of Kassam rockets fired from Gaza on towns and farms in southern Israel.
Israelis took to the bomb shelters, many families spending the night underground. There was substantial damage to property. At least 20 rockets hit Israel within 12 hours of Obama’s victory.
Since Obama’s election, over 60 rockets have landed in southern Israel. Three rockets that hit the coastal city of Ashkelon resulted in a 13-year-old girl and two women being treated in hospital for shock.
One Kassam rocket from Gaza even landed in Sderot cemetery, hitting the graves of Israelis previously killed by rockets from Gaza.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called the Hamas attacks “flagrant violations” of the cease-fire. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said “Israel wants the truce to continue.”
HAMAS: WE ARE IN TOUCH WITH OBAMA’S AIDES
Ahmed Yousef, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, told the Arab daily Al-Hayat today that Hamas has maintained regular communication with Obama aides since before the U.S. election.
“We were in contact with a number of Obama’s aides through the Internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza, but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as they may have a negative effect on his election campaign and be used by Republican candidate John McCain (to attack Obama),” Yousuf told Al-Hayat.
Yousuf said Hamas’s contact with Obama’s advisers was ongoing, adding that relations were maintained after Obama’s victory last week.
During Obama’s campaign, he pledged that his administration would only hold talks with Hamas if it renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by past agreements.
DID OBAMA LIE ABOUT FIRING ANTI-ISRAEL ADVISOR MALLEY?
According to reports in several usually reliable Middle East websites today, President-elect Obama has dispatched his “senior foreign policy adviser” Robert Malley to Egypt and Syria on the next administration’s first diplomatic mission.
Obama was widely criticized during the election campaign for employing Malley on his team after Malley admitted to being in regular contact with Hamas and other Islamic radicals.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt responded at the time that Malley had provided “informal advice to the campaign in the past,” but insisted that he had “no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.”
Aides to Malley are reported as saying today that Obama told Mubarak that the U.S. would maintain military and civilian aid and sell advanced F-16 aircraft to Cairo. Egypt has not ordered F-16s in nearly a decade.
Last month, Egypt held one of its biggest military exercises ever – aimed at Israel even though officially Egypt is at peace with Israel.