Jimmy Carter and the Art of Growing Up

Carter with Noam Shalit, father of Hamas captive Gilad

You could say Jimmy Carter was tempting fate by meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal — after all, his entirely appropriate evocation of apartheid in reference to the regime Israel has created on the West Bank earned him the label “Holocaust-denier” from the more demented end of the American Zionist spectrum. But Carter, bless him, is sticking to his guns, making the rather straightforward adult argument that has eluded so much of the U.S. political mainstream that the only way to achieve peace is to talk to all of those whose consent it requires.

And I’d say Carter has reason to suspect that despite the pro-forma criticisms of his Meshal meeting from Secretary of State Condi Rice as well as the McCain-Clinton-Obama roadshow, the backlash won’t be anything like the firestorm created by his apartheid book. It was reported today, in fact, that the Bush Administration is regularly briefed on back-channel talks between Iranian officials and a group of former U.S. diplomats led by Papa Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Thomas Pickering. So, far all the posturing and bluster, there’s a back channel. And I’d wager that despite the official sanctimony, Carter will be debriefed on his conversations with Meshal by both Israeli and American officials — because Meshal is a key player, like it or not.

The inevitability of talking with Hamas is already widely recognized in U.S. policy circles, and especially in Israel. Already, the Israelis negotiate secretly over issues such as the fate of Corporal Gilad Shalit, prisoner exchanges and a cease-fire with Hamas through intermediaries such as Egypt. And a poll published by the Israeli daily Haaretz in February showed that two out of three Israelis support direct talks between their government and Hamas — an option publicly advocated by such high-profile Israeli leaders as former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy and former foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami.

Noam Shalit, father of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit who has been held by Hamas for almost two years now, expressed a profound understanding of what the U.S. role in the region ought to be, after meeting with Carter. The fact that Carter isn’t perceived as biased towards Israel, he said, would actually help him mediate! Now there’s a basic truth about the proper U.S. role that has been ignored since Bill Clinton bumbled his way through the peace process.

The Bush Administration, needing to maintain its vacuous John Wayne facade, won’t publicly concede that its policies on Hamas have failed and open talks; as with Iran, it prefers to “outsource” such initiatives (to Egypt, for example) for purposes of plausible deniability. But those, like Carter, who’re not running for office, are able to freely advocate talking to Hamas as a matter of urgency. Even Colin Powell has added his voice to the chorus of foreign policy grownups advocating the option. “They’re not going to go away,” Powell said of Hamas on National Public Radio last year. “And we have to remember that they enjoy considerable support among the Palestinian people. They won an election that we insisted on having.”

The Bush Administration failed to reckon with the reasons for Hamas’s victory, and, as a result, has spent the past two years vainly trying to reverse the election result — and has only made Hamas stronger as a result.

So while the Bush Administration may protest that Carter’s meeting with Meshal will weaken its efforts of isolating Hamas, everyone in the region knows that strategy has failed. The idea that it should be avoided so as not to weaken Mahmoud Abbas is idiotic — nothing has weakened Abbas as much as this policy of attacking Hamas while forcing the Palestinian Authority president to jump through hoops while the occupation continues to choke Palestinian life. Carter is simply making clear that it’s time to move on from that failed strategy, and to engage with the intractable fact of Hamas.

To demand as a precondition for such talks that Hamas “renounce” violence and “recognize” Israel is specious: The terms on which Hamas would abandon its strategy of violence ought to be the key subject of discussion with the organization, not a precondition for talking to it. As for “recognizing” Israel, it ought to be noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization amended its Charter to delete clauses denying recognition of Israel only five years after the Oslo Accords.

But just as bearing the burden of political responsibility for the Palestinian national fate had forced Fatah and the PLO to recognize the intractable reality of Israel — as distasteful as any Palestinian would find that, simply because the Palestinians as a people were forcibly displaced from three quarters of historic Palestine in the course of its creation. Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas negotiated with Israel because they recognized that it couldn’t be militarily defeated, not because they suddenly decided that the Palestinian national movement had been wrong all along.

Hamas may be slowly moving to the same point. In an important post on his blog South Jerusalem last week, Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenburg noted that Meshal, in an interview with the Palestinian paper al-Ayyam, appeared to signal acceptance of a two-state solution. Meshal reiterated Hamas’s support for the principles of the unity government, including negotiations with Israel in pursuit of a sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. “We are committed to the political platform on which we agreed with the other Palestinian forces and in convergence with the Arab position,” said Meshal, referring to the 2002 Arab League offer of full normalization of relations with Israel if it withdraws to its 1967 borders and resolves the refugee issue. “Thus all the international parties should deal with this political fact and judge the political platform to which we agreed. The challenge here is not to search in the minds of peoples but [look at] the offered political platform on the table and the American administration and the international community should work to get Israel to be committed to it … This is the way out. After that, whoever wants to recognize Israel or not, that would a matter of his personal convictions.” Hamas, in other words, is willing to abide by a Palestinian national consensus over a two-state solution. As Gorenburg writes, “He really wishes Israel would vanish, but that’s not his political program. He’d rather take a couple pills against nausea, and accept reality.”

No matter how distasteful he finds recognizing Israel, Meshal appears to acknowledge it as an established historical fact. And Carter’s visit is a sign that, no matter how distasteful they find Hamas’s own track record, a growing number of Americans and Israelis are beginning to recognize that, as Colin Powell put it, Hamas is “not going to go away.” The symmetry in their reasoning may have profound consequences. After all, peace between two warring parties convinced of the justice of their own cause only becomes possible when each recognizes the impossibility of eliminating the other by military means.

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21 Responses to Jimmy Carter and the Art of Growing Up

  1. gracie_fr says:

    The latest lunacy put forth in the most recent New York Review of Books by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in “Into the Lion’s Den” is a face-saving strategy where by an agreement, any kind of agreement would be hammered out of by the hostile parties under the sword of the Bush administration’s usual suspects and then shelved “until circumstances permit it to be carried out”. That way the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush will leave behind a solitary victory, if only a Pyrrhic victory of the most despicable kind.

  2. Bruce B says:

    Forgive me, I could not read through your blog – the first paragraph demonstrated your stupidity and hipocrisy.

    Just a couple of points:

    Should the US government meet with LA gangs or the mafia in the pursuit of peace?

    Is Hamas acting like a state when it holds hostages without allowing 3rd parties (i.e. the Red Cross or Red Cresent) to monitor hostage conditions? Do even equivical conditions in US prisons get your ire?

    Hamas is responsible for the daily barrage of terrorist activities TARGETING civilians. Would you tolerate such activities from the US government?

    I think we should send you into these territories to practice your religion (prusumably your not muslim) and negotiate for peace and see if your decapitation doesn’t end up on a youtube video.

  3. aaron silverstein says:

    jimmy carter is a cracker chump……

  4. Matthew says:

    Aaron has proven that one actually can type with an IQ of zero.

  5. Danny B. says:


    At first I was thinking how inappropriate your comparison to gangs is – considering the gangs are a bunch of lawless thugs trying to sell drugs, and The Hamas, however gangster-like their violent actions are, represent the aspirations of many Palestinians to somehow carve out a country.

    None-the-less, living here in LA something did come to mind. Back in the 90’s when gang violence was rampant, the police and city government did reach out to gang members. I know one of them. He brokered a treaty between the Crypts and the Bloods. He helped design some programs to get gang members jobs. He raised money to start a theater and gallery in South LA… well, you get the idea…

  6. Tony says:

    Does Bruce really think two-thirds of Israelis would favor talking to Hamas if they thought they were just a gang? If Ariel Sharon had been born Palestinian, which organization do you think he’d have been part of? Grow up, man!

  7. Matthew says:

    Tony: Hamas translates into “Irgun” in Hebrew.

  8. aaron silverstein says:

    Hamas says that thay are going to build a man made island like the one in dubie …..off the gaza sea coast.

  9. shawn says:

    hi i enjoyed the read

  10. Pingback: Tikun Olam-???? ????: Make the World a Better Place » Israeli Minister Breaks Boycott, Asks Carter to Arrange Hamas Meeting

  11. stanley goldstein says:

    i think that aaron silversteins idea to build man made islands for isreal …..is very good….

  12. rabbi stanley goldstein says:

    who is this aaron silverstein …..some poeple say he lives in boulder CO ….and some poeple say that he lives in st petersburg FL…..

  13. Abe Bird says:

    Jimmy who?

    There won’t be peace between the Arab Palestinians and the Jewish Palestinians because the Arabs don’t except the very existance of non-Muslim state in the Muslim’s ME. It’s time for you to understand that basic fact. If Sharon was an Arab Palestinian he would do the same not because you call him now Sharon, but because he would have been an Arab, Muslim Arab. But Sharon is not a Muslim and he just took care for the interests of the Palestinian Jews.

    Dr. Mahmud al-Zahhar, Hamas leader in Gaza,to Hamas TV, 3 April 2007:

    “Entry to the capital means the state falls. Entry to Al Aqsa Mosque means entry to Jerusalem, it means the fall of that state that sees Jerusalem as its capital. Entry there will be victorious.”

    Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas leader in Gaza, to Hamas TV, 6 April 2007:

    “These are the founding Hamas principles on which we raise our children and in which we believe:

    * Armed resistance
    * Non-recognition of the occupation in any form
    * All Palestine from the river to the sea
    * The holy places and Jerusalem
    * The right of return


    Article 13 of the Hamas Charter proclaims

    * “…the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion…”

    * Hamas despises Jews. Article 32 of the Hamas Charter resurrects a notorious antisemitic forgery:
    “After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

    * Hamas’s avowed goal is to replace Israel with an Islamic state, from “the river to the sea”.

    * In December, 2002, Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin said to a crowd of over 15,000 supporters in Gaza: “Resistance will move forward, jihad will continue, and martyrdom operations will continue until the full liberation of Palestine. The Zionist entity will fall within the first quarter of this century.”


    Do you wonder why sane people despise the Hamas?

  14. It is clear just how much President Carter is feared by those wedded to the official Zionist narrative. I have never been more proud of the actions of Jimmy Carter and can tell by the extent that he is being demonized just how clearly he sees the basic issues involved.

  15. MFB says:

    Oh, Tony, Tony, Tony. When are you going to realise the truth?

    You should ONLY ever talk to people who pretend to agree with everything you say, and at gunpoint!

    It worked so well in South Africa.

  16. igor says:

    I’ve read your articles in both your site and Ultimate Blogs book, I hope you’re aware of. I recognize your talent as a writer but disagree on the issues.
    Like most of the people from non – European part of the world you know and respect Holocaust but never felt what is to live in a sociaety where you are hated because you are a Jew. Anti – Semitism in America looks like smth stupid and funny comparing to a situation when you are beaten, you can’t get to a school you want, insulted everyday the situation when you begin to understand what Israel means for every Jew on the Earth. I was in Israel. It’s not a paradise but it is a very civilized hi – tech place and the most important only place when a Jew can came in case of… . There is no Arab apartheid as Carter who ‘has to grow’ and presumably you talk about. I saw Arabs walking free wherever they want and hate the Jews as much as they could. No one beat them because they are Arabs no one banns them from universities. They are hired on affirmative action similar to American’s. No comparison with the Jews of Europe.
    Terrorism exist because world leaders talk to terrorists. Only way to deal with the terrorists is killing them.
    We kill and prison criminals. The difference between so called ‘freedom fighters’ and murderers is very thin. Carter sponsoring terrorism talking to the people who’s hands in Jewish blood and if Israel wouldn’t destroy Hamas, now, Hamas destroy Israel later. Palestinians should realize that they must live side by side with the Jews but Carter and media talks about cruel Jews giving Arabs hope that making terror they are on the right way.
    You don’t know exact sense of Rootless Cosmopolitans and Stalin’s wish to resettle Jews to Siberia only his death helped Jews of Russia, the leftovers to survive where we lived and it became a psychological point for most of us to become Zionists even if we are far from Israel. Israel became a sacred cow that if smth happens we know where we can go. Now, many French and British Jews go there.
    I dislike Obama for his populism and uncovered Antisemitism I can’t divide Jews and Israel I believe it is dangerous. I don’t trust so – called civilized countries. Remember WWII.
    You have a very early Christian mentality like many Jewish leftists but it is a sign of inexperience and immaturity just romantic approach based on believe that the Jews are accepted as equal. Read history of Germany and Europe on the eve WWII. I don’t wish you to survive what I survived or my parents because of naivety of my grandparents who believed that Communists were the answer to the Jewish cause.

  17. KB says:

    Great article.
    Igor please stop crying. You were not the only people that went thorugh calamities.
    I am an Armenian that had his ancestors slaughtered during WW1 and half of the Industrial world including MY USA does not recognize it. It makes me sick thinking about it. Every year we get pounded dowm by the holocaust and it is making me sick and tired of hearing about it but 70% of my people were driven to death marches in the middle of the desert and no one has the balls and the guts to admit the atrocities of the Ottoman governemnt because we do not want to piss off our Turkish allies.
    Shame on all of you hyporates..
    Add to this the Cambodian, Rwanda and the current Darfour genocide.
    So Igor stop bitching and crying we know all about it.
    Meanwhil, I think Carter is an honorable person and has the courage to do what he did. No one wants peace there because peace will leed to no conflicts and wars and will put a big stop to the Military Industrial Machine which makes billions of Dollars for profits every year.
    ALso what would the war mongers in the USA and Israel do if tere is no more war?
    Pass out food and voluteer to feed the hungry and help the poor and the destitute humanity live a better and peacefull life…
    Not in your wildest dream
    Kill them all and wipe them of the face of the earth all these no good animals.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That is what they want.
    Lord have mercy.

  18. zaphod says:

    There is no “genocide” in Darfur and there isn’t a single place in the world where Jews are being “persecuted”. It’s their religious-paranoic belief to be persecuted but it’s not happening any more than to any other group.

    Rather, the unique blend of religion and racism in the jewish ideology makes Jews the current spearhead and human shields for violent western imperialism.

  19. aaron silverstein says:

    hi i have been PERSECUTED IN THE USA

  20. iPhone Spy says:

    Jimmy Carter has done noble humanitarian work with the Carter Cente

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