Former 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: