Jimmy Carter meets with Hamas

Former President Jimmy Carter, widely seen as a hero in Israel for orchestrating the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel 30 years ago, has been hearing harsh words lately from the Israeli government from his decision to meet with leaders of Hamas, a Palestinian group labeled a terrorist organization by the United States. Carter is meeting with the group with goals to start a dialogue that could lead to greater peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Carter reported his visit as the following:

I’m not a negotiator. I’m someone who might provide some communication. I’m going to try to make [Meshal] agree to a peaceful resolution, both with Israel and with Hamas’s Palestinian rivals

Furthermore, Nasser al-Shaer, a leading member of Hamas, who is the democratically elected majority party in the Palestinian Authority, said,

Carter has weight and respect, and I hope he’ll have a role and effect on the Palestinian problem

However, Israel has refused to meet with Carter, allowing only for a brief visit with Shimon Peres, Israel’s ceremonial president. Peres made sure that Israel’s condemnation of the visit was well known to Carter. The U.S. government has voiced its displeasure as well:

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters Monday that the U.S. has made clear our views that we did not think now is the moment for him [Carter] or anyone to be talking with Hamas.

The U.S. would be happy to hear Carter’s reflections on his visit with Hamas, but it would not likely change the administration’s views on the militant group, Casey said.

The Associated Press article further stated that,

Both the U.S. and Israeli governments have already expressed displeasure at Carter’s overtures to Hamas, an Islamic group responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis and labeled a terrorist organization by both countries.

I would like to point you to an editorial that appeared in the daily Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.

The government of Israel is boycotting Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, during his visit here this week. Ehud Olmert, who has not managed to achieve any peace agreement during his public life, and who even tried to undermine negotiations in the past, “could not find the time” to meet the American president who is a signatory to the peace agreement with Egypt.

The boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government’s history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world.

Whether Carter’s approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter’s method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him.

Carter greeted warmly by Hamas official in Ramallah, lays wreath on Arafat’s grave – [AP]

Our debt to Jimmy Carter – [Haaretz Editorial]

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5 Responses

  1. While I waver between favoring the tactics of weakening Hamas through isolation and negotiating with them, I think this post conveys a common misconception.

    Israel never aims to kill innocents. Hamas ALWAYS aims to kill innocents. While I think Israel needs to be more careful in avoiding civilian deaths, it is always regretted when their attacks on bomb caches and terrorist leaders lead to innocent lives being lost. On the other hand, the goal of Hamas, Hizbollah, al-Qaida, the al-Aqsa Brigade and other terrorist organizations is to take innocent lives.

    This is why the US alliance with Israel makes sense, and why we negotiate with and assist them. They fight a very difficult fight against terrorism so that it doesn’t spread as much to here.

  2. A very true point. However, when events like this happen:
    “Clashes and Israeli airstrikes extended into the afternoon. The deadliest occurred in central Gaza, where a total of 14 Palestinians were killed, according to Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of emergency services in Gaza. Hassanein said all the dead were civilians, and that five were children under the age of 16.”
    the distinction doesn’t mean nearly as much. My intent with including the fact that Israelis also kill civilians is that this isn’t a white and black issue as it is often painted. Israel has done regrettable things as well and a compromise will never be made if we don’t consider the interests of both sides.

    I didn’t mean to say by any means that we shouldn’t be allies with Israel. It’s just that when many people look at this issue they don’t consider that Palestinians have some legitimate concerns in this conflict.

  3. God, it’s awful how many innocent people get killed. It’s really depressing.

    But you need to be careful, Curt. First, you didn’t cite where you got that quote, though I read the NY Times article from whence you pulled it. But citing a Palestinian man for facts on Palestinian casualties? Quoting a biased party in a conflict proves nothing but bias. Palestinian militants sometimes blame accidental explosions of their bombs on Israeli strikes. No matter what side you’re hearing “facts” from, you have to expect some spin.

    How about other parts from the same article, such as:
    *Palestinian militant groups attacked the sole fuel depot on Israel’s border with Gaza, killing two Israeli civilians who worked there.
    *Palestinians opened fire on Israeli soldiers from a mosque used to store explosives, the military said. A soldier and several Palestinian militants were wounded.
    *Israeli forces on the border spotted a group of Palestinian gunmen approaching the fence south of the fuel depot at Nahal Oz and rushed to confront them, the military said. Three members of the Israeli force and four militants from Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, were killed.
    Hamas said its fighters had ambushed the Israelis. “Raiding our areas will never be a picnic,” Abu Obaidah, a spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, told reporters in Gaza.

    You realize why all this is happening, right? You understand the history? You understand that, lacking a peace partner, Israel evacuated Gaza in good faith, leaving behind hugely profitable greenhouses, some built up specifically for the Palestinians with help from the Gates Foundation? You realize that when Israel left, some Palestinians smashed these resources, destroying viable opportunities for economic development and independence for their people? You realize that Israel provides fuel, food, and medical services to the people of Gaza? You realize that despite all this, Hamas continues, instead of providing services to their electorate, to fire rockets and bullets into Israel, killing children and students, and destroying lives and families?

    THIS is why Israel is forced to intervene in Gaza. They don’t want to be there. They don’t want to have their soldiers killed. More than anything, they don’t want Palestinian civilians killed–that is counterproductive to their mission to prevent violence, and destroys international credibility. However, Hamas continues to deliberately target innocent civilians, and yet some people choose to focus on the civilians accidentally killed by Israel, which has no interest in doing so.

    SO: take what is said by any biased party with a grain of salt, look for who has what to gain, and think about intent and legitimate grievances. While Palestinians absolutely have a right to complain about civilians killed, that legitimate complaint is undermined when their own government chooses to target innocent Israelis. This in turn prompts the attacks on terrorists and arms caches, which lead to civilian casualties because they use mosques, public places, and private homes for bases and storage, and even use human shields. This is the reality behind the huge civilian tolls.

    How can this be solved? You are absolutely right: addressing the interests of both sides: ultimately, this conflict is about land, nothing else. Muslims and Jews have a history of living together in peace, and it’s just desire for this land that has fueled this pointless fighting. Camp David 2000 represented the best possibility ever for peace and a two-state solution, but Arafat turned down the deal, which would have basically returned the land to pre-1967 borders, with full Palestinian control of Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

    Why did he turn it down? Obviously, he did not represent the interests of the Palestinian people, as Hamas also fails to do today. My guess is that it would have ended his possibility for power over the people–uniting your people behind you is much easier when you have a common enemy. I suspect that this is why so many promising deals have been turned down over the years.

  4. I can’t say I disagree with anything you said, and yes, I am well versed in the history of the conflict. Like I said before, my purpose was to paint this as something more than a black and white issue and I suppose ultimately I was trying to justify Carter’s mettings with Hamas, but I should have been more explicit about both of those intentions.

  5. “Take what is said by any biased party with a grain of salt.”

    Will do. I don’t want to to risk insulting my favorite roommate, but I just want to remind everyone to listen to his advice and take what he says with a grain of salt. Mother fucker was in D.C. yesterday lobbying for Israel (which, I might add, I was EXTREMELY jealous about). I’m not saying that he’s trying to hoodwink us or push any misinformation or propaganda on our site. I just want to say that you should realize what you’re reading is from a staunch supporter of Israel.

    Personally, I don’t know much about the history or the conflict between the two, and I wish I did. Benjamin’s comment is a good place to start. However, it makes Palestinians out to be the enemies. I don’t know how true that is. If this were as clear cut as Benjamin’s comment makes it seem, I would imagine that Palestine wouldn’t have the amount of supporters that they do today.

    I’m really glad that Benjamin commented, and I think it’s a great dose of perspective for this post. However, I just want to remind everyone to remember to take it with a grain of salt.

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