Did Obama's team meet with Hamas before the election?

Two Israeli newspapers print the claim from Hamas today that Barack Obama’s team met with the terrorist group before the elections.  The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz both report that Hamas says it met with Obama advisers in the Gaza Strip before last Tuesday’s elections, after first having made connections via the Internet:

The Arab daily Al-Hayat on Tuesday quoted a senior Hamas official as saying that United States President-elect Barack Obama’s advisors met with members of the Palestinian militant group before the U.S. presidential election.

Ahmed Yusuf, a political advisor to Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh, reportedly told the London-based paper that, “The connection was made via email and after that we met with them in Gaza.”

Al-Hayat reported that Yusuf also said the relations were maintained after Obama’s electoral victory last Tuesday. He said the president-elect’s advisors requested that the relations be kept secret so as not to aid his rival, Senator John McCain.

Thus far, neither newspaper has received a response from Obama or his staff about the story, with the Post noting the difference in time zones as the reason.  Obama told American voters that he would not meet with Hamas until they renounced terrorism.  If this story turns out to be true, then Obama lied to American voters during the campaign.

But is it true?  Obama fired Robert Malley for having met with Hamas before coming onto Team Obama as a foreign-policy adviser.  So far, only Hamas is making this claim, and anyone who follows the conflict in that region knows that Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations make a living off of highly dubious claims of influence and power.  And what possible gain could Obama and his team have had in holding a meeting with Hamas before the election?  Even if he was inclined to improve relations with Hamas as President, he wouldn’t be dumb enough to hold those meetings at a time that could have prevented his success on Election Day.

Color me skeptical on this story.  It sounds like the blowhards at Hamas are doing what they normally do — trying to inflate their importance and influence among readers of Arab-language newspapers and spinning conspiracy theories for their own benefit.