Politics & Policy

Carter’s Grave Wrong

A tragic misjudgment.

[Peace initiatives], 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…the Movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad. –– Article 13 of the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)

Casting aside State Department warnings, former President Jimmy Carter recently met with top Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he has been given refuge. Mr. Carter, earnest but wrong-headed, said he was on a mission to get Meshaal to agree to peacefully resolve Hamas’s differences with Israel. He made a grave mistake.

It’s not merely that Carter’s foray was an exercise in futility. That would be bad enough. But Hamas official Mushir Masri jubilantly declared that the parley with Carter proved Hamas is a legitimate national liberation movement, and — breathtakingly — not even a terrorist group. “It confirms the failure of U.S. and European policies of ignoring Hamas,” he told thousands of Hamas supporters. “It confirms that all the countries that assume Hamas is a terrorist group should reconsider.”

But what is there to reconsider? When Meshaal boasts of continuing the resistance until “every last inch of Palestinian territory” is liberated, as he is wont to do, he refers not merely to Gaza and the West Bank, but to the entirety of Israel. Hamas’s absolute bottom line — indeed, its reason for being — is the elimination of the state of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian entity. To satisfy this goal, Hamas has used radical Islam and a cradle-to-grave anti-Jewish indoctrination to create legions of terrorists eager to attack civilians and embrace death. The organization has killed hundreds of Israeli innocents, as well as 26 American citizens, in attacks over the last several years.

The United States, Russia, the E.U. and the U.N. — the so-called “Mideast Quartet” — have wisely stuck by their pledge to boycott Hamas until it recognizes Israel and forswears terrorism. The aim is to show Hamas and the Palestinian people that terrorism doesn’t pay.

By rewarding Meshaal with a face-to-face meeting, former President Carter has undermined the international community’s effort. The day that Palestinians have leaders who want peace has been pushed back. Without lifting a finger to moderate his stand, Meshaal — Hamas’s most radical voice — has won an unexpected gift: The photo-op with President Carter strengthens the notion that Hamas’s bloodthirsty outlook represents a viable path for the Palestinian people.

All this is lost on Mr. Carter. If Hamas uses its resources and power to terrorize the Israeli people, it must be because of Israeli “occupation.” At least that’s what he concludes in his recent book on the subject. Turning a blind eye to Palestinian terror, Mr. Carter puts almost all the blame for the conflict on Israel. His solution: If only Israel would “[withdraw] to the 1967 border as specified in the U.N. Resolution 243…”, peace will emerge.

So, Mr. President, here’s what I wish you had asked Meshaal in your colloquy with Hamas:

‐ Why, after Israel withdrew in August 2005 from every last inch of the Gaza Strip, did Hamas respond by using those very lands to launch over 5,000 rockets and mortars at innocent Israeli civilians across the border?

‐ Why, as the U.N. declared last week, is Hamas hoarding one million liters of fuel, while crying wolf to the international community about an Israeli-induced collapse of Gaza’s entire economy?

The answers to both these questions are encapsulated in Hamas’s covenant. Misery and perpetual war give Hamas its reason to go on, while peace and prosperity would only spell the end.

The day after Carter’s meeting with Meshaal, Hamas suicide bombers detonated two explosives-laden vehicles at the Gaza-Israel border crossing, wounding several Israeli troops, whose alertness fortunately staved off potential disaster. Rockets also continued to rain on Israel. While the Israelis have practiced admirable restraint in the face of terror, the specter of a full-scale retaliation looms large. Casualties would be high on all sides. Hamas militants, who used gangland-style brutality to expel Fatah from Gaza last year, hide among civilian populations to launch rockets.

Once upon a time, an American president named Jimmy Carter negotiated a landmark peace deal between Egypt’s Anwar Al Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin. But Khaled Meshaal is no Sadat. This time Carter has made a tragic misjudgment of character and motives. Instead of peace, this meeting only hastens the coming of war.

 – Virginia congressman Eric Cantor is Republican chief deputy whip of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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