Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) (Blog)
April 28, 2011 - 12:00am

President Obama's chief of staff, William Daley, is the top administration official addressing the American Jewish Committee's annual conference.

This is what he just said about Hamas-Fatah reconciliation:

"We all have seen the news of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas to form a government. Like the Israeli government, we are seeking more information."

The United States always supported Palestinian unity, he then said, "providing it is on the terms which advance the cause of peace. Hamas is a terrorist government which targets civillians."

Okay, before I get to the most interesting bit, a couple of observations:

I'm not sure from Israeli statements that Israel is interested in more information about the agreement. Here's what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

"You can't have peace with both Israel and Hamas. Choose peace with Israel."

That sounds more like "I'm giving you a little time to change your mind," not, "Hey, I need more information." Sounds like Bibi thinks he has plenty info.

Also interesting: The elision from "Like Israel, seeking more information" to "always supported Palestinian unity." I don't think Israel has expressed much in the way of support for Palestinian unity that does not involve the crushing of Hamas.

But here's the crux, which by the way earned Daley loud applause:

"Any Palestinian government must renounce violence, it must abide by past agreements and it must recognize Israel's right to exist."

Such a government -- particulartly one composed of nonpartisan "experts," as Fatah and Hamas have reportedly agreed -- could easily meet those criteria, and still have as a component Hamas.

That's a substantive difference from demands by Israel and by Congress members that any Palestinian government not include Hamas, period.

Otherwise, Daley hit right notes: strong security relationship, confronting Iran, and on domestic issues -- protecting immigrants and seeking energy independence, signature AJC issues.

He became emotional discussing how the passport photo he beheld at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum recalled for him his own Irish ancestors' flight from persecution.

His Chcago accent -- broader than anything I even hear on Chicago Code -- mangled "Tikkun Olam" beyond any other use I've heard, and among Democrats Who Speak to Jews, you hear the phrase a lot.

One odd note though: He talked about his first hundred days in the job as White House chief of staff, and related how he sought advice from his predecessors. He singled out James Baker, who, Daley said, called chief of staff "the worst f***ing job in the world."

Really, if you're going to quote an ex-White House chief of staff using that adjective, best not to make it Jim Baker, no?

I mean, didn't Rahm use it often enough?


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