Carter's Rogue Diplomacy Welcomed by Shalit, Unwelcome by Israel

Former US President Jimmy Carter is in the region for unauthorized talks with Hamas terrorist Khaled Mashaal, saying he feels "quite at ease."

Hana Levi Julian , | updated: 11:30 AM

Former US President Jimmy Carter
Former US President Jimmy Carter

Former US President Jimmy Carter says he feels “quite at ease” meeting with chief Hamas terrorist Khaled Mashaal in Damascus and is looking forward to his talks with the politburo head, scheduled this Thursday. “I’ve been meeting with Hamas leaders for years,” said Carter, who arrived in Israel Sunday on his unauthorized diplomatic “study mission.”

Carter has made headlines across the US with his insistence on holding talks with Hamas against the specific and repeated requests of the American government that he not do so.

The latest slap on the wrist came from US National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley on Sunday, who told ABC News, “The position of the government is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don’t negotiate with terrorists. We think that’s a very important principle to maintain. The State Department made clear we think it’s not useful for people to be running to Hamas at this point and having meetings.”

Similar comments were made last week by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack while Rice was traveling overseas.

Shalit: ‘Perhaps His Views Will Carry More Weight’
The former US president met Sunday with the parents of IDF Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in a cross-border raid from Gaza in June 2006. Prisoner swap deals brokered by Egyptian security officials have repeatedly neared completion, only to be torpedoed at the last minute by Mashaal.

Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, expressed the view that because Carter is perceived as persona non grata in diplomatic circles, perhaps his views will carry more weight with Mashaal and “raise ideas that would be viewed with suspicion if they were raised by other people.”

Peres: Thanks for the Treaty, No Thanks for the Problems
Earlier in the day, Carter met with President Shimon Peres as well, albeit facing a somewhat frostier reception.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had both sidestepped requests for meetings, claiming packed schedules. Peres, who is known for his liberal attitudes on the diplomatic scene, was surprisingly critical of Carter’s “mission” this time around.

“We thank you for your contribution to Israel’s peace with Egypt,” said Peres, referring to the peace treaty Carter brokered in 1974 during the administration of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin. “But you’ve caused many problems in recent years with your comments and meetings,” he added.

Carter's recent book which calls Israel an Apartheid state was criticized by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz as being "so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court."

Voice of Israel government radio reported Monday morning the former president also asked to meet with jailed arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, the Tanzim leader serving five life sentences for murder. The government refused to comment on the report.