I think it is funny to see the writhing of politicians in Israel and in the US over former US President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Hamas leaders.
Carter, who brokered Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor, Egypt, signed in 1979, met Israel’s ceremonial president Shimon Peres on Sunday but was shunned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other policymakers.
The new chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee on Monday criticized fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter for plans to meet with Hamas, saying the former president holds ”warped” views on the Middle East.
By meeting with the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, Carter ”in effect is undermining a current policy which is not just American but held by many others,” Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The Bush administration also has criticized Carter’s plans to meet in Syria this week with the leader of Hamas, and the plans have angered Israel. There’s been less public criticism from other Democrats.
”Jimmy Carter’s view of the forces at work in the Middle East and how he likes to attribute blame and responsibility is so warped to my way of thinking that I’m skeptical of any initiative he undertakes,” said Berman, a longtime supporter of Israel.
Carter was refused permission to meet Marwan Barghouti, and was refused permission to enter Gaza. He was also refused security from Israel (somewhat similar to the way Mohammed Khatami was refused security from Mitt Romney a while back).
All of this disapproval, of course, is due to Carter’s book, “Peace, not Apartheid” and his plans for talking to Hamas. Some Israelis are not opposed to Carter’s talks with Hamas nor his book though as is apparent from this editorial in the Haaretz:
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. Recently, he was involved in organizing the democratic elections in Nepal, following which a government will be set up that will include Maoist guerrillas who have laid down their arms. But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.”
Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel’s control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to “full autonomy” for the occupied territories, not to settle there. These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.
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. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.
I don’t have such naive views of Carter’s peacemaker status though. I remember too well his support of the Contras in Nicaragua and large support for Suharto in his genocide in East Timor. However, I am glad that someone of his stature is defying all around him in including the elected government of Palestine in his own personal efforts at bringing peace to the Middle-East.