Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter inexplicably proved to be a last-minute "no show" at the last minute in Gaza, bowing out of a tour with three representatives of a group calling itself the global Elders, comprised of retired world leaders.
Carter, who has been to the region to meet with Hamas numerous times, was slated to arrive in Cairo on Friday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak prior to his trip through the Rafiah crossing into Gaza, but for an unexplained reason, he did not appear.
Last month the 86-year-old leader was hospitalized briefly in the United States for a stomach ailment.
Sources said Carter would join the group later as it continued with plans for meetings in Damascus and Amman, as well as stops in Israel, Judea and Samaria.
The group of famous retirees, which slammed Israel's blockade of Gaza an “impediment to peace,” includes Ireland’s former president and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who proceeded to visit the Hamas terrorist ruled region on Saturday. The rest of the delegation includes Ela Bhatt, an Indian women’s rights activist, and Lakhdar Brahimi, a former United Nations envoy and foreign minister of Algeria.
The Carter tour is allegedly intended to “encourage support across the region for the current final-status negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“The isolation of Gaza is not only illegal collective punishment, but also an impediment to peace,” the group said Saturday in a prepared statement, after having spent the day in the region.
“I was last here in 2008, just before the Gaza war. The situation has deteriorated to a shocking extent since then,” Robinson told reporters. “This is not a humanitarian crisis – it is a political crisis, and it can be solved politically. It is unconscionable and unacceptable that Israel and the international community have not lifted the blockade fully to allow Gazans to rebuild their lives and be part of the interconnected world that we take for granted.”
Israel earlier this year and allowed all goods to enter, except weaponry and dual purpose items, and the United Nations has stated there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Numerous investigations have also made it clear that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; hundreds of tons of aid are trucked in to the region daily, including food stuffs, medical equipment and supplies, cooking gas, diesel fuel, dry goods and other necessities. Israel offered to truck in all the cargo on the flotillas that attempted to break the blockade. Those needing Israeli medical care are allowed to cross the checkpoints.
Officials from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) briefed the Elders delegation on the services they provide to the region. In addition, they met with Hamas de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other local leaders, rights activists, business leaders and women’s organizations, according to the statement.
“Holding 1.5 million people in what is effectively an open prison is deepening the sense of anger and injustice of the Palestinians,” warned Brahimi, who said the group had come to “show solidarity with them. This situation is a disaster. It is creating a generation of young people who have little to lose. This is not in anyone's interest."
Despite Haniyeh’s statement to the Elders that he believed it a “national necessity to put an end to Palestinian divisions,” it has been his faction that has consistently rejected efforts by various Arab mediators to reconcile Hamas and Fatah into a renewed Palestinian Authority unity government.
It is also Hamas that continues to reject calls to renounce violence, uphold agreements of previous PA governments, and formally acknowledge the right of the State of Israel to exist.
Gaza was split off from the rest of the PA in June 2007 when Hamas routed Fatah after winning a bloody milita war between the two factions. The region has been held in a death grip by Hamas ever since.
The terrorist group kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit during a cross-border raid on an Israeli army base near a Gaza crossing in June 2006, prompting Israel to lock down the crossings for several years. Gilad is being held incommunicado in Gaza.