Jimmy Carter with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.

Gershon Baskin to meet James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr

Dr. Gershon Baskin thinks it is “great” that Carter wants to meet with the Hamas leader and it would take someone like Carter to open a dialogue with the Hamas.

Dr. Gershon Baskin, a leader of the Palestinian-Israeli NGO Peace Forum, is scheduled to meet with Carter next week. He said he thinks it is “great” that Carter wants to meet with the Hamas leader.

“I think that it’s important to talk to your enemies,” Baskin told Cybercast News Service. It would take someone like Carter to open a dialogue with them, he said.

Some believe isolating Hamas is the best way to deal with the radical group. But Baskin said he doesn’t think it will work. If there is any chance to engage Hamas, then someone with the international prestige of Carter “has a moral responsibility to do that,” he said.

The head of Hamas goverment in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh (R), sits with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. Carter is in the Gaza strip.

The head of Hamas goverment in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh (R), sits with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip. Carter is in the Gaza strip.

Israel is very angry about the idea of former President Jimmy Carter meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Syria next week, according to an Israeli official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.

“Israel is outraged about this thing. We think that it’s a bad idea,” the official said by telephone.

Neither Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office nor the Foreign Ministry would comment on reports that Carter’s visit to Syria will include a meeting with the terrorist leader.

Both the U.S. and Israel consider Hamas, which seized control in the Gaza Strip last June, to be a terrorist organization and therefore refuse to deal with it.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and it continues to fire rockets on Israeli civilians. Much of the world is boycotting Hamas because of that, the Israeli official said.

Meeting with a former American president will give the group a respect it doesn’t deserve. It’s a “very bad mistake,” he said of Carter’s reported meeting with Mashaal.

The Carter presidential center confirms the former president will be on a “study mission” in the Middle East next week, stopping in Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Associated Press quoted sources as saying that Mashaal and Carter would meet next Friday. The Carter Center has not confirmed such a meeting.

Carter is due in Israel on Sunday evening. Neither Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni nor opposition Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu are expected to meet with Carter — an apparent rebuff, press reports said.

However, Carter is expected to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as well as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the Carter Center, the purpose of Carter’s trip is “not to negotiate, but to support and provide momentum for current efforts to secure peace in the Middle East.” Carter is going “with an open mind and heart to listen and learn from all parties.”

Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat refused to comment on the anticipated meeting between Carter and the Hamas leader. “Jimmy Carter is Jimmy Carter. He is free to do what he wants to do,” Erekat told Cybercast News Service.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Carter was warned that a meeting with Mashaal was not a good idea, but that the former U.S. president would make his own decisions.

“If he decides to travel to Syria, we will provide full support befitting a former president of the United States while he is in Syria,” McCormack said. “One thing we will not do, however, is have the Department of State, in any way, engage in any sort of planning related to a meeting with Hamas.”

Moral obligation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas shakes hands with former US president Jimmy Carter

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas shakes hands with former US president Jimmy Carter

Carter’s trip comes amid growing pressure for Israel to negotiate with Hamas. That pressure comes from both inside and outside Israel.

Dr. Gershon Baskin, a leader of the Palestinian-Israeli NGO Peace Forum, is scheduled to meet with Carter next week. He said he thinks it is “great” that Carter wants to meet with the Hamas leader.

“I think that it’s important to talk to your enemies,” Baskin told Cybercast News Service. It would take someone like Carter to open a dialogue with them, he said.

Some believe isolating Hamas is the best way to deal with the radical group. But Baskin said he doesn’t think it will work. If there is any chance to engage Hamas, then someone with the international prestige of Carter “has a moral responsibility to do that,” he said.

But not everyone likes the idea.

Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli Embassy liaison to the U.S. Congress, said it’s “very fitting” that Carter — a man who helped fuel the rise of Islamic radicalism in Iran — should pay a visit to Islamic radicals now.

Carter did not support the pro-Western Shah of Iran when the Iranian revolution broke out — bringing the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to power and giving rise to an Islamic nation that continues to destabilize the Middle East. “Carter caused a volcanic eruption and aftershocks that plague the Middle East and beyond until this very day,” Ettinger told Cybercast News Service.

Carter is credited with presiding over the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty – Israel’s first with an Arab country – in 1979.

But Ettinger argued that Carter didn’t want then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to meet directly. He wanted to host an international conference instead. “It was only because Begin and Sadat insisted that a peace process was launched and successfully concluded,” Ettinger said.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Jerusalem director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Carter’s decision to meet with the Hamas leader validates those who have questioned his pro-Palestinian leanings.

Carter’s recent book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” caused an uproar in Israel. Critics said it was not only anti-Israel but riddled with inaccuracies.

“At a time when Hamas is raining down rockets on Sderot, [it’s] the worst possible message to extend a hand to such terrorists,” said Zuroff. “It is undermining the efforts to isolate Hamas, encouraging their terrorism and serving as the worst possible example of a Western official.”

It just goes to show what “idiotic, obtuse, and counterintuitive things” one can do in the name of a desire to make peace, Zuroff said.

If the meeting does happen, Carter would be the first prominent American to meet with Mashaal since the Rev. Jesse Jackson met him on a trip to Syria in 2006.

Last summer, Carter reportedly planned to mediate between the Hamas and Fatah factions after the violent Hamas takeover in the Gaza Strip. It was also reported that Scott Custer, West Bank director of the Carter Center, had met with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

According to Al-Jazeera television, Carter was planning to meet with senior Hamas leaders in Gaza next week, but the trip was scuttled by the Israeli government.

Professor Kenneth Stein of Emory University told Cybercast News Service that although freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution, no one has the right to violate national security.

Stein resigned as a Middle East fellow from the Carter Center in a row over Carter’s book. He said there is a “fine line between disagreeing with government policy and actually working against that policy.”

Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar from the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, said that Carter had violated U.S. policy and law many times, putting his own interests ahead of those of his country.

Originally published at http://cnsnews.com/news/article/bad-mistake-carter-meet-hamas-leader-israeli-says

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is the CNS News Jerusalem Bureau Chief.

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