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. Kathleen, Omaha, NE

    I totally support President Carter's move to negotiate with Hamas. Thank God Condoleezza Rice and the Bush Administration will soon be gone and America can resume the pursuit of diplomacy in the world!

    April 10, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Randy - Denver

    I guess the Bush administration does not want him to go because then we will see that it is possible tot TALK with enemies as well as friends and that good can come out of talking with them. the bush administration believes you should never talk when a gun is availiable!

    April 10, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  3. Sam- Chicago

    We are not wining this war, its time to try something else, anything. Just talking, does not cost the taxpayers any money, no kill anyone.

    Its always been the humanly way of resolving conflicts. War is just a show of force, which always ends up with the bigger guy bullying the little one.

    Thank you Mr.president.

    April 10, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. Jason, DC

    The US forced the Palestinians to use democracy to elect their leaders, even overseeing elections, and the people chose Hamas, who is essentially a political party that has long provided government services to the Palestinians. Of course, the US now wishes they had picked hte leaders rather than the Palestinians voting on their own. That's completely dishonest - if you're going to spread democracy, then you have to accept the will of the people (though ironically, that seems to be a problem in our own domestic voting system).

    Jimmy Carter is an honorable man. The US needs to be even-handed in solving Middle East peace, not favoring either side over the other. Unconditional support for Israel has become excessive - though sometimes right and sometimes wrong, much of Israel's conduct has not been much different than what has gone on in Tibet, Darfur, and South Africa. It's time to take a stand and change the way we do politics in the Middle East, rather than look the other way, if we ever want to return to our moral standing in the world community.

    April 10, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. Meryem/Orlando

    Matt, next time you try to comment on issues using a comparative statement, try to compare APPLES TO APPLES OR ORANGES TO ORANGES. You will end up with a more educated comment. Trying to help!

    April 10, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. Lou

    I don't know enough about all the details to think whether this is right or wrong...but if it's about foriegn policy, and Bush doesn't reccomend it, Carter is probably on the right track. I don't trust this administration as far as I could throw it.

    April 10, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Jedi Academy

    If you want to stop a dog-fight, you have to get in the middle. Don't listen to Bush, go to Damascas. Thank you, Jimmy.

    April 10, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. ES from Ohio

    You can't address a problem or issue without talking.
    Hurrah Mr. President. Boo to the administration.

    April 10, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. Darth Vadik, CA

    Let's just take them out right, like Israel has been trying to do for the past 60 years, because its working out so well for the both parties.

    Evil begets evil.

    Stop the circle of violence.

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

    In all due respect to former President Carter, you did not have the backbone in 1980 to r\force the realease of the hostages in Iran.President Reagan did shortly after his ignauguration by showing spine and backbone to the Iranian leadership.

    I would suggest that President Carter stay home and mind his business. Your time has gone by. Please go back to building housing for the needy.

    April 10, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Independent

    Why is the Bush administration so afraid to talk? He must have had a lonely childhood

    April 10, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. RuthieM

    Why can;t Carter do what he wants to do, especially when our current president refuses to meet and greet and diplomatize....

    April 10, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. Jane

    While Israel has been right on many occasions to take certain actions, illegal settlements, occupation, use of napalm, and collective punishment remain ILLEGAL under International Law and the Geneva Conventions. These facts seem to be lost in the fray...

    April 10, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. Go Carter

    Smart and brave president.
    You represent a better American image than the last 2 presidnets...

    April 10, 2008 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. Colie Brice

    Carter has done more good as an ex president than Bush has done with both his terms..

    April 10, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. Mills

    You go right on and talk to Hamas, JC.

    When you're there, make sure you go talk to all those Hamas officers who believe Israel has no right to exist. Take a tour. Go to the areas where those rocket launchers were responsible for blowing the legs off the eight-year-old Isreali boy on 2/10/2008, and have your picture taken while standing next to them just like "Hanoi" Jane Fonda did with those rocket launchers that were killing our troops in Vietnam.

    Then, you can come back and claim your "patriotism".

    I never thought it was possible for an ex-president to actually be worse that what he was as president. You sir, have consistently shown me that this is possible. The fact that you were such a lousy president, and what you are now, is simply mindboggling.

    April 10, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. A True black American

    I think this people are now showing us what they are made of. America has lost it already .Isrealites can you see yourself i think some of you are supproting Obama can you see youself now. I know Obama wil be a very great disaster for America it is coming to be . Well i think it is your time China to take over as world power . America has missed it in every way. I CRY AND WEEP FOR AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. sophia nyc

    I have spent the last 2 months in Israel and I can tell you that even Israelis want their governemnt to talk to Hamas.

    Hamas are the democratically representatives by the Palestinians. We need to live with it.

    April 10, 2008 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Emma

    Hooray for Jimmy Carter, the elder statesman and former President. His knowledge of foreign policy exceeds any knowledge that Bush can ever hope to have.

    Jimmy Carter does represent the future in his thinking, too bad his presidency was not so eloquent.

    April 10, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Tina

    A good leader is the one who can honestly humble himself to GO to the enemy and diague with him with a view to making peace. When will American leaders learn to humble themselves, come down from their high horse and reach out. not for what they will gain but what they can give. Let us for once erase this notion that americans are arrogant, especially in the arab world. HUMILITY is the watchword. Go ahead Carter.

    April 10, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. serena1313

    I hope Carter does meet with Hamas.

    While Bush was happy to see Palestinians vote, he did not like that the Palestinians voted overwhelmingly for Hamas. Immediately Bush placed heavy economic sanctions on their country in hopes of turning the citizens against Hamas. But they voted for Hamas because Hamas provides social services, food, shelter and jobs. They voted for Hamas because they were tired of the corruption.

    Bush calls Hamas a terrorist group. Hamas is militia group formed during the 1980's in response to Israel's occupation of Palestine.

    Humanity's Universal Laws of freedom, liberty, human dignity, equality, peace, etc. are known by every person everywhere whether experienced or not ... they know. When those laws are not adhered to people know too that repression, war, violence, chaos, etc. are the results thereof. Thus people will fight back with whatever means they have.

    The ones whom oppose Carter talking to Hamas, let me ask you how many more lives must be lost? Americans need to realize that what happens in the Middle-East and elsewhere on this planet greatly affect us and right now we have an administration without a clue as to how to handle this are reckless and acting irresponsibly with people's lives and the stability of the world.

    Communication is the first step to finding common ground and finding solutions. Carter knows this which is why he is willing to talk to Hamas.

    Have Americans lost their sense of justice?

    April 10, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Chili Padi

    Mr. Jimmy Carter was the President when I first arrived in the US. Through the years I still maintain respect for him, although I must admit that through the same period that respect has slowly diminished. For him to meet with Hamas leaders would be the last straw of any respect I have left for him. I guess you could say who cares whether I have any respect for him or not. You are so right, I myself don't care anymore. I have always maintained that one cannot meet or negotiate with the devil. How can Mr. Carter meet with people whose avowed goal is annihilation of Israel and, by extention, annihilation of other people who do not subscribe or subjugate themselves to their brand of Islam. I know what I am talking because I was borned and grew up in a Muslim country.

    April 10, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  23. Eli


    April 10, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Liz W

    President Carter, you are no longer our president. Do not interfer in the politics of today. You will be sending messages that may hurt our country in the long run. Please think about what you are planning to do. Things do not always seem to be what they appear. Please think long and hard on this issue.

    April 10, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  25. John A. Nicholson

    The peanut farmer needs to butt out. Lets remember how much he did while occupying the White House.

    April 10, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
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