April 10th, 2008
12:12 PM ET
12 years ago

Bush administration urges Carter not to meet with Hamas

 Former President Jimmy Carter.

Former President Jimmy Carter.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Bush administration has urged former President Jimmy Carter not to go forward with plans to meet with the leader of Hamas, the State Department said Thursday.

Carter may meet next week in Damascus, Syria, with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, as part of a trip to the Middle East.

Carter spokeswoman Deanna Congileo told CNN she could not confirm or deny whether any specific meeting might take place during Carter's trip.

However, a Hamas official told CNN that Carter plans to meet with Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus to avoid being arrested or killed by Israel.

The meeting with him had been announced as including members of a council of world leaders, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela, but the group issued a statement Wednesday saying they were postponing the trip.

That statement was issued shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with Annan.

The council of world leaders, known as "The Elders," was launched by Mandela. The group was to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia on a peace mission.

Last month The Elders released a statement saying their mission was to "help people understand the urgency of peace."

But in their statement released Wednesday, they said the group "had planned a visit to the region in April to meet and listen to representatives from government, civil society, business and the public in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The Elders will continue consultations with key leaders in the region and outside with the purpose of developing a comprehensive report, but have decided to postpone their visit."

A Carter Center news release issued Thursday says the former president "will lead a study miss
ion to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan April 13-21."

Accompanying him, it said, will be his wife, Rosalynn, and their son Jeffrey; former U.S. Rep. Stephen Solarz; Dr. Robert Pastor, senior Carter Center advisor and professor of international relations at American University; and Hrair Balian, director of the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday the department would provide Carter with assistance on his trip, as is customary for a former president. But he added the State Department "would not participate in the planning or scheduling" or in any meetings with Hamas officials, and he counseled Carter against such talks.

"U.S. policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization," McCormack said. "We don't believe it is in the interest of our policy or in the in the interest of peace to have such a meeting."

McCormack said that Assistant Secretary David Welch urged Carter in a phone call not to take part in the meeting, arguing doing so would be a detriment to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Carter, who served as president between 1977 and 1981, runs the Carter Center to promote global peace, health, democracy and human rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

He drew fire from Israel and Jewish groups over his latest book on the Middle East for his criticism of Israel's policy, which he said can be compared to apartheid.

Hamas, which won elections in 2006, split with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party last year after Hamas forcibly seized control of Gaza.

Washington considers Hamas a terrorist organization and has led a movement in the international community to isolate it.

In 2006, the Rev. Jesse Jackson met Meshaal during a visit to Syria against Bush administration wishes.

A meeting between Carter and Meshaal would take place amid calls from many experts in the United States and Israel to open up a dialogue with Hamas.

They claim the policy of isolation is not working.

A poll earlier this year in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz found that 64 percent of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas.

Filed under: Jimmy Carter
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Michael Lorton, Virginia

    I think that Jimmy Carter is suffering from "self-delusion." He believes that he is still the President.

    April 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Nunya

    Carter is not representing the U.S. As the article says, he runs the Carter Center. He represents nothing more than that.

    Meeting with a group is not supporting them.
    Meeting with a group is not agreeing with anything they may say.
    Meeting with them does carry an implicit acknowledgement that they are a significant player in the region – but anyone who can't see that is pretty blind to start with.

    April 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. vic nashville,Tn

    He looking for trouble!!!!

    April 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Jamil, Dearborn, MI

    Leave it to the Bush administration to dictate orders to everyone and tell them who they can and cannot meet. The man is going to talk to them about pursuing peace – something the state department should have been doing instead of this failed policy of isolation – you won't do what we want so we will "isolate" you until you obey us.

    April 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Maybe former Pres. Carter is seeking the truth to find a solution in this region. It makes sense to do so if you only are talking to the favorable diplomats and you only hear one side of a problem. You've got to talk to all parties, that's the only way of finding a solution.

    April 10, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  6. El Queso Grande

    Yes, you fools, we MUST have a dialogue with people who want to kill us... er, uh... I mean "convert" us. Er, uh, I mean...

    I'm not one to disrespect former presidents, not even "ol Wild Bill," but this is proof positive that any good judgement Jimmy Carter may have possessed is clearly gone. Hey, I wore a uniform once and I'm all for peace too, but not at the cost of bowing and appeasing our enemies. Carter is going to apparantly "listen to Hamas' grievances." I'll tell you their greivances and save you the plane ride... "We want to shove Israel into the sea and convert or destroy the decadent Infidel West, but we cannot carry out these plans if you insist with your 'war on terror.'" There ya go, Jimmy... I saved you a plane ride, a plane full of fuel and saved you from contributing more to your imaginary "man-made global climate change."

    April 10, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. Some hope

    Well put SwilliamP. I'm happy to read that not everybody that posts in here is the kind that would bomb first and ask questions later.

    April 10, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. mep

    Angus McDugan – Carter meeting w/Hamas does not mean he supports them – How on earth do you come up with that conclusion?

    Jimmy Carter was able to broker peace in the middle east when he was president...Given the total lack of ability regarding peace that this current regime has, why shouldn't he give it a shot?...The only thing that Bush/Rice et al., are able to broker is war & death...Perhaps they are afraid he will make inroads and make them look worse than they do already...Is that even possible?

    April 10, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. Kelley

    POLITICAL JUNKIE No truer words have been spoken: Hamas was put in charge by a democratic vote of the people of that country. Like it or not you either believe in the democratic process or you don't

    April 10, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  10. willis, Texas

    Jimmy Carter is his own man! His wisdom is guiding him to do what is right!

    I suggest we sit back and support him while he does his job.

    April 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Len in Washington

    One more example of the Bush Administration believing that the best ways to handle diplomacy is by ignoring and admonishing anyone who doesn't agree with them. I don't believe that this report stated that President Carter was "representing" the U.S.

    Let's not forget, also, that every American has the right of free speech. At least that's what I thought while spending four years in the Marine Corps!!!!

    Len in Washington

    April 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. Mike

    Carter is a fool.

    April 10, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Floss Shahbegian

    I think what Carter would like to do is admirable. The U. S. has long favored Israel and treated the Arab world as second rate - except for the oil producing countries. We have always sided with the Israelis and never understanding and sympathizing with the Palestinians and their plight. I wonder what American would appreciate living in the conditions the Palestinians live in.
    I see nothing wrong in communicating with the other side. Perhaps if we hadn't ignored their needs, they wouldn't be terriorist.
    Nancy's comment is a clear demonstration of viciousness borne out of her total ignorance. Get a brain.

    April 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. PJ

    Has a former President ever been charged with treason? He mind as well just aid and abet the enemy. What is wrong with him? Is he going to bring a gift, too.

    April 10, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Bosnian Sniper

    Jimmy Carter is NOT anti-Israel. He negotiated the longest lasting, most durable, and now fully institutionalized peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country (Egypt).

    What he IS – is a practitioner of peaceful conflict resolution and mediation, a field that dictates that you talk to all the major stakeholders in a conflict.

    He is only anti-Israel when judged from the perspective of the most blindly pro-Israel administration this world has ever seen.

    April 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. KHAL Houston, Texas

    If this is a way to a way over peace in the Middle East, then so be it. The people i.e. Jews and the Palestians are brothers and they need to start acting according....Jimmy Carter is a true "Christian Man with Faith...let him do whatever good he can....he a builder like Jesus the Hu/man....Habitat for Humanity.

    April 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. AJ, IL

    Jimmy Carter is trying to make up for diplomacy time lost during his Presidency. I think Carter's believes in making peace. Unfortunately, most of the Western world is pro-Israel (since most of the western countries helped established Israel in the middle east) and the Middle East is pro-Palenstian. I would prefer that the Bush Administration engage both the Israelis and Palenstinans (Hamas included), but someone has got to get Hamas, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria on-board with a two state solution.

    April 10, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. Retired Professional w/woman for obama

    A humanitarian that can talk peace? Why does Bush not want
    Jimmy Carter to go an talk peace. It will take someone like Mr.
    Carter to make some sense of the mess we are in.

    April 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. proud army and navy mom

    He's a grown man, he can meet with whomever he pleases. What's bush scared of?

    April 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  20. PJ

    The enemy is Hamas not Isreal, people. No one should know that better than Carter. The only good thing he has done in a offical capacity was broker peace between the State of Israel and the Egyptian Rep. Hamas are terrorists (puppets of Iran).

    April 10, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Not a Republican

    What we need to consider is that even tho we dont agree on things. We can sit with them and discuss isssues..If I am not correct issues are not resolved unless we talk them out..If no talking is involved. Doesnt the turn of events just get worse? I think we need a different strategy. Communication. It could save Billions of dollars. Think about it.

    April 10, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Robert

    Carter was the worst president ever! What a disaster his 4 years in the WH were...the Hamas meeting goes to show that he hasnt changed.

    April 10, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. gerard morei

    Carter is a great leader and negotiator. I'm very proud of you President Carter.

    April 10, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  24. Michael, Canada

    Only a stronge leader talks to the 'enemy' while a weak leader, like bush, stays in the background making noise. Well done Mr Carter!!

    April 10, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  25. Gorbashov, Long Beach, Ca.


    You can't solve the problem if you don't speak to all sides in the issue!

    OBAMA/NUNN in 2008

    April 10, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
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