Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Carter's visit with Hamas' Meshal

By Hasan Abu Nimah, The Electronic Intifada, 16 April 2008

".......Some of South Africa's own anti-apartheid leaders have gone even further, saying that the system of racial discrimination Israel is implementing is even worse than what they suffered. They, too, urge Israel to change course for the sake of all Palestinians and Israelis.

But Israel has hardly ever been in the mood to receive good advice; all that it wants is unquestioning endorsement and unconditional approval of its deeds and plans. Unfortunately, most foreign leaders are prepared to provide just that, and this has been a major source of harm to both Israeli and American interests in the region.

No one can question Carter's passion for peace, his intellectual and political sincerity, his ethical values or his integrity as a man of principle and profound faith. Since he left office, he never refrained from involving himself in sound causes, as he never slowed down his mission for a safer and better world.

If, therefore, Carter is set to hold a meeting with Meshal, it would be ridiculous to think that he is meeting a "terrorist" or that he is signaling his support for terror, or even for the continuation of any form of violence against Israel or in the region in general.

Israeli and other Carter critics surely know this. Their concern, however, must be twofold. One is that such contacts are slowly breaking the isolation of Hamas when what is desired by Israel is Hamas' delegitimization and destruction. The other is the genuine fear that Meshal's message to Carter may be able to shake the myth that Hamas wants simply to destroy Israel, or continue on a course of war and violence for the sake of it.

Meshal may repeat the same language he used in an op-ed in The Guardian on 31 January 2006, just after Hamas was declared the winner in the Palestinian general elections. There, he extended a message of peace to Israel, based on full rights and reciprocity, starting with a long-term truce. But this was still distant from the Israeli-tailored terms applied by the so-called international community for accepting to deal with Hamas.

It is also unlikely that Carter would come out of a meeting with Meshal fully convinced of the Hamas program, but he may not adopt the notion that Hamas is merely a terrorist organization and an obstacle to peace that no one should ever talk to. Indeed, in an interview with Haaretz, he stressed that to make peace you have to talk to everyone. That possibility alone is frightening enough for an Israel that has no interest in genuine negotiations or an end to conflict that requires it to recognize the rights of the Palestinians."

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