In a New York Times op-ed on Monday, ex-Pres. Jimmy Carter says Hamas wants peace - while Hamas leader Khaled Meshal presents an entirely different picture.

Carter wrote in the Times about his recent meetings in Israel with the leaders of Hamas and Fatah, and painted a rosy picture of prospects for peace with Hamas.  He attacked the United States and Israel for having categorized Hamas as a terrorist organization, and for therefore not talking with them. 

It is a "counterproductive Washington policy [of] recent years," Carter writes, "to boycott and punish political factions or governments that refuse to accept United States mandates. This policy makes difficult the possibility that such leaders might moderate their policies."

Carter himself, on the other hand, talked with Hamas officials, and based on their "official responses," came up with the following conclusions (inter alia):

"Hamas will accept any agreement negotiated by Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert provided it is approved either in a Palestinian referendum or by an elected government.... Hamas will disband its militia in Gaza if a nonpartisan professional security force can be formed... Hamas will accept a mutual cease-fire in Gaza, with the expectation (not requirement) that this would later include [Judea and Samaria]..."

At an April 21 press conference in Jerusalem, Carter said, "Hamas said they would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders [enabling Israel to continue to exist as it did prior to 1967 - ed.] if this was approved by the Palestinians, and that they would agree to accept Israel's right to exist as a neighbor with whom they would have peaceful relations."

Arab affairs analyst Yehonatan D. HaLevi writes that an interview given by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal shows that Carter either did not understand the answers he was given, or that he is purposely presenting a false picture designed to "launder" Hamas in Western eyes.

Meshal: The Struggle Will Continue

HaLevi writes that Meshal told Al-Jazeera just three days ago from Syria something very different: "As opposed to the rosy picture presented by Carter, according to which Hamas is willing to recognize Israel under the current circumstances, Meshal said that the struggle against Israel would continue."

HaLevi quoted Meshal as having explained, "Israel is only willing to accept our ceasefire proposal - including a full retreat from eastern Jerusalem and to the '67 borders, the return of the refugees, but no recognition of Israel - if circumstances force it to do so and if a change in the balance in power forces it do so.  Hamas is working to make sure this happens."

Hamas Accepts Democratic Results - Only Under Certain Conditions

In addition, though Carter says Hamas is willing to accept the results of a Palestinian Authority referendum, in actuality, Hamas has placed so many qualifications on this as to render it totally moot.  Meshal told Al-Jazeera, "Hamas will accept the will of the Palestinian nation, as reflected in free elections for the Palestinian National Council in accordance with agreed-upon principles, or in a free referendum inside [within the PA-controlled areas] and outside [abroad] - on condition that the Palestinian negotiator will be obligated to Palestinian rights in accordance with the Document of National Consensus on the issues of Jerusalem, the refugees, and borders."

"In other words," HaLevi sums up, "Hamas will accept the results if they are identical with the original Hamas position."

Hamas and Shalit

It should also be noted that Carter says approvingly of Hamas that it will "permit Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants in 2006, to send a letter to his parents."  No date has been set for this to happen. "If Israel agrees to a list of prisoners to be exchanged, and the first group is released, Corporal Shalit will be sent to Egypt, pending the final releases," Carter writes - without noting that the "list of prisoners" is many hundreds of names long and includes many who have been involved in the murder and maiming of dozens of Israelis in terrorist attacks.

HaLevi says Carter's position is puzzling: "He sees nothing wrong with Hamas even though it is a terrorist organization... He is essentially enabling terrorist and Fascist organizations to take over western democracies whenever these groups win a majority of the vote.  In addition, Carter is trying with all his might to launder Hamas and to market it to Israel and the international community as a moderate force - even though Hamas itself presents a totally opposite stance."

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