According to the Guardian, Barack Obama is set to open contacts with Hamas. The hoped-for dialogue will be low-level at first, with care taken to not give legitimacy to Hamas. The problem is that any level of discourse is going to give a modicum of respectability to Hamas. The U.S. followed a similar secret dialogue with the PLO in the ’70s, but the downside is that the ’70s weren’t that great in terms of Arab-Israeli relations, and the PLO was not a recognized terrorist organization as Hamas is.
Obama has made much of his willingness to engage in diplomacy with anyone. I think this is a mistake, as terrorist organizations like Hamas will perceive this as a sort of reward and will only use a communications conduit like this to score propaganda points. The more even-handed approach that did nothing under Clinton and that is being sought after now will only lead to more U.S. condemnation of Israeli defensive actions, and a waning American alliance will only further isolate Israel.