Former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk is receiving undue heat for meeting with Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal in Damascus. Peter Harriman’s article, “Controversy fails to deter ex-senator,” conveniently ignores the larger point of Abourezk’s meeting with Mashal. It’s not a “question of ethics” but rather a question of logic to meet with representatives who are party to the larger, unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict as opposed to isolating them.

Aside from Jimmy Carter, such a position has been recognized by an eminent group of bipartisan former U.S. officials, including Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton and Paul Volcker. It’s why Israel has entered into a new truce with Hamas instead of praying that such a party with grass-roots support in the Gaza strip would go away.

If either presidential contenders John McCain or Barack Obama are truly serious about peace in the Middle East, they should follow Abourezk’s example and meet with parties the U.S. doesn’t agree with in the region. That includes meeting with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Farrah Hassen is the Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies.

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