NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Talking to Hamas

Former President Carter to meet with Hamas chief

Fkhalidmeshaal.jpgormer president Jimmy Carter plans to meet next week in Damascus with Khaled Meshal, the head of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in a direct rebuke of the Bush administration’s campaign to isolate it.

The disclosure of Carter’s plans by the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat and subsequent confirmation by sources familiar with his itinerary instantly placed the campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in a political bind.

The campaign of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, was quick to blast Carter’s plans and called on both Obama and Clinton to condemn the meeting with what the State Department lists as a terrorist group.

Both Clinton and Obama issued statements with milder language, saying they “disagreed” or did “not agree” with Carter’s plans. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — Simply because he had the supposed audacity to describe Israel as operating a system of apartheid in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, Jimmy Carter is already irredeemable in the eyes of much of Washington. But what will shape the political impact of Carter’s meeting with Khaled Meshal may have as much to do with the make up of the delegation accompanying Carter, as it does with Carter’s own presence.

If, as Al Jazeera reports, Carter is joined by Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, this would certainly capture the global media’s attention. But if this meeting is in part intended to challenge the conventional wisdom in America, then perhaps Carter should invite the former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy.

This is a man, highly respected in Israel — and by no stretch of the imagination “soft on terrorism” — who like the majority of Israeli citizens supports the idea of talking to Hamas. If CNN was to broadcast a joint news conference between Carter, Meshal, and Halevy, perhaps a few more Americans might start to understand that the US government’s policy of shunning Hamas is not only ineffective, but it does not even reflect the will of the Israeli people. How can anyone claim to be loyal to Israel if they don’t pay attention to what Israeli’s themselves are saying?

To learn more about Halevy’s views on Hamas and the Palestinians and understand the thinking of this hard-headed realist, watch this March 19 interview (18 minutes) he did with Al Jazeera:

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9 thoughts on “NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Talking to Hamas

  1. carol Elkins

    This is the first genuine act of political hypocrisy on Obama’s part. Jimmy Carter’s visit lies squarely within Obama’s repeated principle. There is nothing different about Hamas. Carter is not negotiating either.

    “Obama has said he is willing to meet with officials of hostile governments, but he puts Hamas in a different category.

    Spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

  2. Enzo

    Paul: “To learn more about Halevy’s views on Hamas and the Palestinians and understand the thinking of this hard-headed realist, watch this March 19 interview (18 minutes) he did with Al Jazeera:”

    Thanks for providing the clip, Paul. He’s a real piece of work. (For definitions of “piece of work,” see here:

  3. carol Elkins

    Unfortunately, this reveals that it is not the “culture of Washington” that is the problem, but the culture of the electorate. That is Obama’s giant Achilles heel.
    Congratulations, as usual, to Jimmy Carter, who is not postponing his visit until after the election! He is a minority of one when it comes to “leaders.”

  4. Enzo

    Carol, if you’re concerned about political hypocrisy, there are plenty of others standing in front of Obama, waving their hands, clamouring for your attention — not the least of whom are Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

    Obama’s response, “did not agree,” was the mildest of the lot. As such, it says a lot. What more could you realistically expect?

  5. Enzo

    Carol: “Unfortunately, this reveals that it is not the ‘culture of Washington’ that is the problem, but the culture of the electorate.”

    Translation, please.

  6. Paul Woodward

    There are two ways this event can go. It can either be viewed as a piece of political theater in which the audience on the Right feigns shock and outrage at the “irresponsibility” of America’s most frequently scorned former president. Or, it gets presented in such a way that the personalities are secondary to the substantive issue: Israel’s need to sit down and talk with its principal adversary.

    The rationale for having someone like Efraim Halevy participate in a meeting with Khalid Meshaal is that political dialogue that is of consequence must be based on mutual respect, not sympathy. The real partnership for peace – if such a thing ever comes into existence – will be based on the understanding that each side comes into the negotiation as a strong advocate of their own side’s interests. This is why talks between Olmert and Abbas are an utter charade. They do no more than satisfy George Bush’s desire to facilitate the pretense of a peace process.

    If Carter and Mandela sit down with Meshaal, they’ll certainly win a round of applause from progressives and anyone else who doesn’t cower in fear whenever the word “Israel” is used as a political bludgeon. But among those who treat mindless support of Israel as the litmus test of moral rectitude, the meeting will merely be treated as ammunition to bolster their case that the greatest threat to civilization comes from weak-minded liberals. What will be lost is the opportunity to highlight the fact that the political leadership in Israel and the US is out of step with Israeli popular opinion.

  7. carol Elkins

    Thanks for the response, Enzo. The “culture of the electorate” is, has been, under the Bush administration, to call thoughtful people “fools,” and to
    idealize the ability to produce and consume masses of junk. Reagan articulated this culture: “Greed is Good” Then, the corollary is, a “I am greedy, so I am good. “Next corollary: “America is good, and if you don’t be like us, you are evil and should be destroyed. God says so.”

  8. carol Elkins

    Barack is hamstrung by political requirements. Jimmy Carter is free! Look at him GO! The argument for both him and Al Gore is, the way to go with the Presidency, if you want to accomplish something, is to LOSE!

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