EX-PRESIDENT CARTER, ISRAEL AND DEALING WITH HAMAS
"Jimmy Carter, the former US president attempting to broker an understanding between Israel and Hamas, said on Monday the Islamist Palestinian group stood ready to accept the Jewish state as a “neighbour” and would back a peace deal under certain conditions.
Mr Carter said: “I met with Hamas leaders from the West Bank, Gaza and Damascus. They said that they would accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders if approved by Palestinians – a departure from long-standing Hamas doctrine that refused to recognise two states.”
In a statement released shortly after his speech in Jerusalem, Hamas neither confirmed nor denied his claims. However, it did adopt a broadly conciliatory tone, expressing support for a referendum on a peace agreement and promising “flexibility” and the willingness to take “the necessary steps”.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and has claimed responsibility for a string of recent attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians, did not say what those steps were.
Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, said in Damascus that it would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war but would not recognise the Jewish state. He raised the prospect of a “a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition” should Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders.
Mr Carter has been criticised by Israeli and US politicians for meeting senior Hamas officials, including Mr Meshal, who lives in exile in Damascus. While the former president has stressed he is not engaged in an official diplomatic effort, he has urged Israel and the US to end their boycott of Hamas.
“He [Mr Carter] made this trip on his own initiative,” said Tom Casey, a US State Department spokesman. “We counselled him against engaging with Hamas, in keeping with long-standing US policy. They still refuse to acknowledge or recognise any of the basic Quartet principles . . . The bottom line is Hamas still believes in the destruction of the state of Israel.”
Mr Carter said he knew the meetings would be “viewed negatively in some quarters”, but insisted it was a mistake to isolate Hamas and Syria. “We believe the problem is not that we met them but that the US and Israeli governments will not meet. This unwillingness to talk makes peace harder to achieve,” he said.
The winner of the Nobel peace prize then cited a passage agreed with Hamas: “If [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas succeeds in negotiating a final status agreement with Israel, Hamas will accept the decision made by the Palestinian people and their will through a referendum . . . even if Hamas is opposed to the agreement'".
"Hamas would accept Israel, says Carter", 21 April 2008, in www.ft.com
"The extreme reactions prompted by former US President Jimmy Carter's attempt to engage Hamas can be difficult to reconcile with objective reality, especially if one wants to avoid extending parallels to their seemingly obvious but necessarily ersatz conclusions. What players on both sides of the divide have in common, though, is a mindset that, to say the least, does not lend itself to rational discussion.
One on side there are voices like that of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who, unable to credibly pretend that Hamas does not exist, rejects any form of negotiations with the group until it renounces most of the bargaining chips it holds. The one it has not been asked to forego, its mandate as the freely and fairly elected majority party in the Palestinian legislature, was devalued by US sanctions the moment it was acquired and then rendered null and void by infighting with the US-backed Fatah faction that led to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya's being deposed by President Mahmoud Abbas. As for the argument that Hamas is a "terrorist" organization, it is important to recall, too, that the original icon of Palestinian resistance to occupation, Yasser Arafat, was long dismissed in identical terms....
None of this is to equate the State Department with Al-Qaeda or either with other entities pursuing separate agendas that are just as disruptive. All of it, however, illustrates how vulnerable this part of the world is to black-and-white positions that allow no room for practical considerations. Political Islam, for instance, is not going away, so those uncomfortable with the phenomenon have a vested interest in helping relatively pragmatic groups like Hamas - and Lebanon's own Hizbullah, for that matter - to feel more at home in the democratic tent. This will not be accomplished by conspiring to disqualify their very pertinent - and significantly representative - policy positions on capricious and/or specious grounds that only discredit the very concept of what is trying to sell itself as participatory democracy".
"Some Mindsets are more conducive to useful discussions than others", Daily Star,
22 April 2008, in www.dailystar.com.lb
It would be kinderspielen, to merely get up on a soapbox and criticize former American President Carter, for being some type of 'moral idiot'. Although to be honest, that is what he does come across on my occasions. And, most especially in the current case of the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The fact is that left to its own devices, Hamas would be quite content to rain bombs and kill innocents on the Israeli side of the border in pursuit of its 'ultimate' goal of regaining all of 'historical' Palestine. And, just as obvious is the fact that Hamas is not in the least position to do any such thing. What it is capable of doing is: a) launching rockets on those portions of Israel which lie adjacent to the Gaza Strip, doing damage to Israeli property and very very occasionally killing some poor innocent; b)killing and or capturing, when possible, Israeli troops guarding the border, or attempting some mission inside Gaza proper. Perhaps up to ten Israeli troops have been killed in this fashion in the past six months, and, of course one Israeli soldier remains a prisoner of Hamas since June of 2006; c) and, by virtue of 'a' and 'b' above, trying to make it all but impossible for Palestinian President Abbas, to negotiate some type of modus vivendi agreement with Israel, which might, just might, against all of the many odds (much of which are Israeli or American in nature), result in a serious push for a peace agreement. Both in terms of Palestinian opinion in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the wider Near Eastern and Arab popular opinion.
With all of the above being said and understood, it also has to be equally realised that the pre-existing American and Israel policy to: i) ignore Hamas as it did not exist; ii) attempt to actively undermine and in effect overthrow Hamas by a policy of economic sanctions and strangulation, id est., allowing almost no food supplies and other trade from other the Israeli or Egyptian sides of the border so that the population of the Gaza Strip will naturally blame Hamas and consequently, thus effect its overthrow from within. This was and is (nominally) still is American policy even prior to the coup d'etat that brought Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip. The fact that the chosen weapons for the success of this policy: economic sanctions, and, before that, Fatah loyalists in the Gaza Strip, did not work or co-operate has not made much of an impact on official Washington's view of things. In the case of Israel, there appears to be a two opposing states of mind as to how to deal with Hamas: one) overthrow it via economic sanctions, and, if that fails, to use overwhelming military force to retaliate for Hamas pinprick attacks; two) negotiate some type of modus vivendi with it, at least to prevent matters from getting out of hand. Especially, since no Israeli leader of any strip, regards going back into the Gaza Strip as an occupation force as anything other than a pure nightmare. However much it might at first resolve the matter of the rockets being launched on Israeli towns and villages bordering Hamas.
Into this impass, comes Mr. Carter. He goes to the area and secures a statement from the Hamas leadership in exile, that they are flexible and willing to negotiate with the Jewish State, as well as to abide by any Palestinian referendum on a final status peace deal. The issue is not whether Hamas is likely or agreeable characters. They are all disgusting characters, and, in a more sensible world, would merit like all Islamic fanatics, many many years as galley slaves under the lash. However we do not inhabit an 'sensible world'. Consequently, we must endeavor to negotiate plausible agreements with such individuals. Who at least nominally are no more blood thirsty than say the IRA. An organization that the American government was quite willing to treat with kid gloves for over twenty-five years when it suited it to do so. Again, in an ideal world, Israel would simply march into Gaza, destroy its existing infastructure and quickly withdraw. However as the Israeli government knows quite well, and, hence the reason for its relative inaction over the last two years, the situation in Gaza does not allow for it to perform such a quick and clean operation.
Would that it could. However it cannot. Consequently, Mr. Carter, that 'moral idiot', is correct in stating that:
"'We believe the problem is not that we met them but that the US and Israeli governments will not meet. This unwillingness to talk makes peace harder to achieve'".
Just so. And, the sooner that both Tel Aviv and Washington as well as the EU get this point down the better for all concerned. Because, amici, like it or not, Hamas is not going to be disappearing anytime soon.