- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter brokered the first Israeli-Arab peace deal, but he’s getting a cool reception in Israel during his latest visit to the Mideast.

Israeli leaders are shunning the globe-trotting peacemaker for planning to meet with the head of Israel’s archenemy Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, and comparing the Jewish state’s policies to apartheid.

A schedule released by the Atlanta-based Carter Center showed no plans for the former president to meet any of Israel’s key players: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni or Defense Minister Ehud Barak during this week’s visit, which begins today.

The only high-ranking official he’s set to meet is Israel’s ceremonial head of state, President Shimon Peres.

A senior Israeli official said “scheduling problems” was the official reason given for the high-profile snub even though Olmert recently took time to chat with “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller.

But the real reason for the cold shoulder is Carter’s plan to meet with Mashaal when his Carter Center delegation travels later this week to Damascus, Syria, the Israel official said.

Israel’s leader are not publicly criticizing Carter out of respect for his former position as U.S. president, the official added. He spoke on condition of anonymity because his explanation went beyond the official position.

For his part, Carter has said, “I feel quite at ease in doing this. I think there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process.”

Although he said the meeting would not be a negotiation, he outlined distinct goals.

“I think that it’s very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with the Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians, maybe to get them to agree to a cease-fire — things of this kind,” he said.

The State Department says it advised Carter twice against meeting representatives of Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization.

“I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday, after reports of the planned meeting surfaced.

Carter said he’d be meeting Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudi Arabians and others “who might have to play a crucial role in any future peace agreement that involves the Middle East.”

Asked whether it was right to meet a group that has not renounced violence or recognized Israel, he said, “Well, you can’t always get prerequisites adopted by other people before you even talk to them.”

Pressure to drop the meeting has come from his own party. Democratic Reps. Artur Davis of Alabama, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Adam Schiff of California and Adam Smith of Washington state wrote a letter to Carter saying the meeting could confer legitimacy on a group that embraces violence.

“I’ve been meeting with Hamas leaders for years,” Carter said.

The Carter Center said his “study mission” was taking him to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan this week.

Carter, a broker of the 1978 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his conflict mediation as president and since.

As president, Carter led the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. “That was a totally different experience in 1980, when the Soviet Union had brutally invaded and killed thousands and thousands of people,” he said, rejecting the idea of boycotting the Beijing games to protest China’s crackdown in Tibet. He did not address whether just the opening ceremonies should be boycotted.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide