The New York Times reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, travelling to Rome for a meeting focused on Libya, refused to slam the door on negotiations that could include Hamas as part of a larger Palestinian authority, even as Hamas’s leader, Khaled Meshal, said he was fully committed to working for a two-state solution.

But Mr. Meshal was in no mood for concessions. In an interview in his Cairo hotel suite, he declined to swear off violence or to agree that a Palestinian state would produce an end to the conflict — key demands of Israel, the United States and Europe. He defined his goal as “a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel itself.

Running head-long into a firestorm in Congress (which has already begun objecting to continued U.S. aid to the unity government), the administration insist that it’s business as usual for now:

The senior administration official said that the United States, unlike in the past, did not want to preclude a genuine shift by Hamas, or force the Palestinians into a corner by denouncing any alliance that would include a group the United States and others designate as terrorists. “There is a calculated element to this,” the official said.

When asked if the reconciliation would close the door to any possible negotiations with the Israelis or force a suspension in security assistance the United States has funneled to the Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, Mrs. Clinton declined to answer directly.

“There are many steps that have yet to be undertaken in order to implement the agreement,” she said. “And we are going to be carefully assessing what this actually means, because there are a number of different potential meanings to it, both on paper and in practice.”

This might strike some as delusionary. Hamas — which has shelled Israeli civilians, murdered Americans, mourned Osama bin Laden’s death and dedicated itself to the destruction of Israel — is going to have a change of heart? Notice the absurd assumption: that ruling out dealings with a terrorist group will only “force the Palestinians into a corner.” The “corner,” of course, is a series of international and U.N. agreements and decades of Palestinian pledges, all of which which the United States now considers an unfortunate cul-de-sac limiting its and the Palestinian Authority’s options. The thought never dawns on the administration that it needs to convince the P.A. that it will not achieve its ends or be able to cash its U.S. checks without returning to the bargaining table.

Clinton insists, of course, that Hamas must meet a list of conditions in order to achieve recognition of a Palestinian state: “She emphasized, as the administration has always done, that the United States would not accept a Palestinian government that included Hamas unless the group renounced violence, agreed to live by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and recognized Israel. These are the so-called ‘quartet principles,’ agreed on by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.”

But Hamas has not done these things, yet the cash keeps flowing into an entity to which Hamas will presumably have access. How can we be sure taxpayers’ money isn’t being used to buy missiles for Gaza terrorists or to plot the murder of West Bank settlers? Clinton would rather take that risk than put any undue pressure on the poor Palestinians, who after all, can’t be “boxed” in by such demands.

Congress will soon step forward with resolutions and legislation cutting off aid to the Hamas-Fatah entity. Republican presidential candidates will decry President Obama’s funding of Hamas. And unless Hamas transforms itself or the unity government quickly collapses, the administration, just fresh from a foreign policy coup, will find itself under siege.

In the meantime, House and Senate oversight committees as part of their oversight obligations should haul Clinton up to the Hill and have her justify how it is that we are sending money to a entity co-founded by Hamas. Or maybe an enterprising White House reporter can ask the president directly: Does he intend to enforce U.S. law barring funding of foreign terrorist organizations?