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. sarah

    the reason the bush abomination doesnt want carter to go is simply because bush is not interested in peace in the middle east. he wants widespread hate and discontent so he has a reason to bomb someone and say it was a mission of mercy

    April 10, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. Drew

    Great childish policy by the Bush administration. If we pretend evil doesn't exist and close our eyes, maybe it will go away! Face your fears and you will understand and be able to deal with them better. Grow up Bush and his followers.

    April 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  3. Kate

    Viva President Carter, He is a true human being, a true American.

    April 10, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. President Carter

    Take Obama with you!!!

    April 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  5. Ted in Chicago

    Carter is way off with this trip – and with his book that caused many at his OWN CARTER foundation to resign due to some of its disputed content

    April 10, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. Allen in NC

    To Matt.... Please, That has to be one of the dumbest comments I've seen In a while.... Take both your republican canidates and vote for them.... The american people are sick of lies and MCbush .....

    April 10, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. MD

    Oh please keep this senile man at bay. Carter is the second worst president of this country (second to Bush). I don't care that he helps build homes or whatever. It was Carter who changed the face of the Middle East by engineering the removal of the Shah of Iran in 1979. Now he is back there meddling again.

    Meeting with Hamas leaders is wrong not because they are against us, but because they are against the welfare of their own people.

    April 10, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  8. Sarah

    Talking is the only way to solve problems. Thank god the decision isn't Bush's or we'd be getting in yet another war....

    OBAMA 08.... YES WE CAN!

    April 10, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. Nick from TX

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    And shame on the Bush administration!!

    April 10, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. KC - CANADA

    Carter is well intended I am sure – but his experience in the arena of 'diplomacy' even if only as an 'elder' is significantly lacking.
    I find it interesting that he is doing this against the administration – regardless of the logic behind their request of him not to meet with Hamas – This is a game of chess – this is a dance – this is not however, a game. Now, like it or not, the only man for such a role – the only guy who proved time and again his innate ability and brilliance as a foreign policy envoy – consulted by almost all presidents on the left and right after he left office – the trusted and ingenius geo-politician – I have to say it my dear American friends – RICHARD NIXON – now there is a man who knew what the heck he was doing when it came to foreign policy!!

    April 10, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |

    I agree with the Political Junkie. i LOVE Carter and george bush could learn alot from him.

    April 10, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. Alex H

    Wow, Ric... you wouldn't happen to also go by the name of Nancy, would you???

    April 10, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Chris

    Ric and Nancy,

    You know, you can try learning more words so that you don't need to keep repeating the only 9 words that you know.

    April 10, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. MP-Pennsylvania

    Why not? At least he is trying to solve problems, where as some ex- presidents sell the country through free trade agreements, and represent / lobby for foriegn countries Dubai acquiring US port!!!!!!

    April 10, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Val, Atlanta, Ga

    Nick, I agree with you, whats wrong with talking to try to find a solution. One thing I came to realize we will never correct Isreal even when she's wrong and that is amazing to me.


    April 10, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Greg James

    Not only was Jimmy Carter the worst president in my lifetime, he continues to prove that he is the worst ex-president as well.

    April 10, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. IAMWMD

    It's the right thing to do to try and keep the peace. G Dubya seems to sit on his hands on every issue that's not gonna benefit his cronies.

    April 10, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. TheLeftNut

    Carter...now there's a war monger (cough, cough)

    April 10, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Jeff P

    How do you negotiate with someone who's stated desire is to destroy (kill) you ? If he doesn't kill you then you win. If he does kill you he wins. There's no win/win here.

    The basic premise of negotiation is that there must be a reasonable point that both parties are willing to get to. If that is not present then talking solves nothing more than not talking.

    The problems of the Middle East have existed for 2,000 years. The problems began long before there was a US let alone a living administration (past or present) to blame.

    Most of this is just spleen venting. Let Carter go. It's highly unlikely he'll solve anything but there's also little downside risk.

    April 10, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  20. terry

    Carter has totally lost touch with reality. He exhibits a complete lack of rational judgement. Go build a house Jimmy and leave politics to those with common sense and sound minds.

    April 10, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. A REAL American

    Oh my God!! I really can't believe there are actually people like James, Ben, Justin, and Nick out there, and they actually have the nerve to say everyone else is ignorant! Let me guess, they're not terrorists, they're just "misunderstood", right? Why don't you fools go live in Israel for a while, and then come back to tell us how exciting it is to live in constant fear of a mortar attack.

    Carter is a complete disgrace to this country, and liberals ought to be downright ashamed to claim him as one of their own!

    April 10, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Maxine

    I agree with Nick from Tx; say what you want about Jimmy Carter but a peackeeper he is. What can it hurt to talk to Hamas it isn't helping by ignoring them, it only leads to more hate.

    What has the present administration done.....tried to TELL them the way WE see democracy. That is what people don't get, not everyone's terminology of democracy is the same. I am not saying that terriost or the like shouldn't be punished, but if we don't start talking with different groups, they will continue to raise their children to hate Americans, because it is our way or the highway.

    We spend billions with a communist country like China, but will not even talk with a smaller country to negociate peace. HMMM sounds right.

    Give it a chance.

    April 10, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. Val, Atlanta, Ga

    And another thing, I have never ever disliked anyone like I dislike Hannity I thing is very racist and he loves bush which I think he is the worst president ever, what I would like for all the bush lovers including Hannity to do since they believe so much in this war while our children are dying YOU put on a military uniform and go and support your president and his war, let me really see how much you support him.

    April 10, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  24. D.Kimbro OHIO

    Are you people serious, our refusal to have discussions with anyone who doesn't agree with Bush is why allies are disappearing in the middle east. I believe we should open up as mant channels as possible. Whats the worst that could happen, nothing. On the other hand maybe we exchange some of the faces dying in the middle east, to the indiginous peoples. Why should sacrifice any more lives or $$ in this region??

    April 10, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. joe

    and i thought the WORST president in History can't get any more worst

    April 10, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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