The Obama Administration should remove Hamas from the terrorist list, former President Jimmy Carter told media following his visit to Gaza today. He said he plans on pushing for the change when he meets with U.S. officials on Thursday to discuss his latest trip to the Middle East.
Carter’s comments came during a joint press conference with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh following their meeting today in Gaza. The former president said he tried to convince Hamas leaders to denounce violence, accept the existing interim agreements and recognize the right of the Jewish state to exist.
"Hamas leaders want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also eventually with Israelis to live side by side, with two nations, both sovereign nations recognized by each other and living in peace," Carter said.
Haniyeh told Carter that he supported any plan that aims at preserving Arab rights and leads to the establishment of a sovereign Arab state on all the territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967 "with Jerusalem as its capital." He urged Carter to pressure Israel to lift the security blockade which was imposed on Gaza’s border crossings to prevent weapons smuggling.
During his visit Carter handed over a letter from kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s parents and asked the group to deliver it on humanitarian grounds. He shared his version of a prisoner swap proposal which included releasing PA women, children, and parliament members he claimed were being held by Israel.
Haniyeh said Hamas desired to end the Shalit case and welcomed Carter's mediation efforts.
Asked about his feeling after touring Gaza, Carter said, "My feeling is a feeling of sadness, anger and despair after seeing all this destruction that was caused to innocent people." He said that he would send President Obama a report explaining in details the situation in Gaza.
Carter said he felt personally responsible that American weapons were during Israel’s offensive in Gaza in January to stop terrorists from launching rockets against Israeli civilians in the south. "I know that the Israeli destruction of houses, infrastructure, and factories in Gaza was carried out by American weapons. I hope that this won't be repeated again," he said.