Carter ‘Legitimizes’ Hamas, Harms Peace


Former President Jimmy Carter is embroiled in yet another foreign policy debacle. His current mission: a trip to the Middle East, where his schedule includes a formal, face-to-face meeting with Khaled Meshal, the supreme leader of the terrorist group Hamas. Carter’s actions are deeply upsetting to Israeli leaders and to Israel’s supporters in the U.S. As president, Carter’s singular foreign policy success was mediating the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Now he is venturing into the Middle East in an inappropriate and destructive way. Meshal lives in Damascus under the protection of the anti-Israel, pro-Iran and pro-Hamas and Hezbollah regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Carter has no business talking to him.

Since leaving the White House, Carter has engaged in some positive domestic programs, such as Habitat for Humanity. He has also become an increasingly vocal critic of the State of Israel, most significantly in his one-sided, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. His very use of the term “apartheid” in his title equates Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the harshly segregationist policies which existed in South Africa before Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Clerk negotiated the agreement that resulted in true majority democracy in that nation. While Israel’s relations with the Palestinians are not above criticism, to call the Jewish State’s treatment of the Palestinians “apartheid” is provocative and inaccurate. Palestinian Arabs living in Israel are citizens with full voting rights, and representation at all levels of Israeli government. Their situation is in no way comparable to that of blacks in pre-Mandela South Africa, and Carter should know better.

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This is a delicate time in the peace process between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a process aimed at establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Carter’s decision to meet with Meshal offers legitimacy to an organization explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel and to the killing of Jews everywhere.

During Carter’s visit to Israel last week, Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni refused to meet with him. President Shimon Peres, Israel’s head of state, received Carter at his presidential residence. Peres, a veteran of all Israeli governments since David Ben-Gurion, strongly rebuked Carter for agreeing to meet with the leader of Hamas, whose charter quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and whose “spiritual leaders” routinely compare Jews to “pigs and apes.”

Carter agreed to visit both Sderot and Ashkelon while in Israel, towns that have been repeatedly pummeled with Qassam and Katyusha/Grad rockets. To his credit, Carter said, “I think it is a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians, and my hope is there will be a cease-fire soon.”

Later, Carter visited the West Bank town of Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s de facto capital, where he embraced a local Hamas leader, Nasser Shaer, and placed a wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat, the blood-stained leader of the Palestinian Authority. Such gestures hardly sends an appropriate message from a former U.S. President.

Carter proceeded on his mission even after the White House and all three major candidates for president urged him not to, insisting that meeting with the leader of Hamas would undermine current peace efforts. Since Carter chose not to heed that advice, we can only hope he will use any influence he can over Hamas to persuade it to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, accept its “right to exist,” accept responsibility to implement a genuine cease-fire, and to honor past and future agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He should also press Hamas and Hezbollah to immediately free all captive Israeli soldiers, to stop rocket and suicide bombing attacks on Israel, and to permanently and truly renounce all acts of terrorism and aggression.

If these unlikely developments ensue, some good will have emerged from this profoundly mistaken foray into foreign policy. We can hope, but we won’t hold our breath waiting. During the fuel shortages of World War II and in Carter’s presidential term in the 1970s, people often asked themselves and one another, “Was this trip necessary?” Carter should be asked the same question now.