Former President Jimmy Carter, on a tour of the Middle East, met Tuesday with a Hamas former deputy prime minister in the West Bank, and confirmed plans to meet with top Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria later in the week. The U.S. and Israel both consider Hamas a terrorist group, and Israeli leaders, except for ceremonial President Shimon Peres, declined invitations to meet with the former U.S. president. Carter said Hamas and Syria will have to be part of any Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, but that he was not talking with any of the actors as a negotiator or mediator, but “just as a communicator.” (Reuters)
What the commentators said
Israel isn’t the only government snubbing Carter, said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an editorial. The Bush administration has signaled its displeasure, too. But Hamas is “the ruling (and elected) Palestinian party.” Bush should not only “support Carter in his mission,” but also “send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice along” with him. How can the U.S. “claim to work at brokering a peace deal” when it "refuses to speak” with one of the major parties?
The party Carter is talking to is “a gang of cutthroats who’ve never hesitated to include Americans in their growing body count,” said the New York Post in an editorial, and his decision to “break bread” with them is an “outrage.” Is he “so convinced of his powers of persuasion” that he thinks he can “single-handedly” persuade Hamas to stop trying to destroy Israel? “Fat chance.” Instead he is “putting a stamp of legitimacy” on Hamas and disgracing “(again) the office he once held.”
What’s disgraceful is Israel’s “boycott” of Carter, said the Israeli daily Haaretz in an editorial, which “will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government’s history.” Israel can view Carter’s decision to meet with Hamas as either “appropriate or defeatist,” but his method of conflict resolution—“to talk with every one”—is surely “no less successful” than “boycotts and air strikes.” Carter “worked incessantly” as president to forge the still-lasting peace agreement with Egypt, and for that alone Israel owes him “the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.”