Carter is "pleased" with Mitchell
Carter is "pleased" with Mitchell Israel News Photo: (file)

Anyone who wants to negotiate for peace in the Mideast will have to speak with Hamas...

Former President Jimmy Carter says that peace in the Mideast is realistic. However, he contends, Israel must be willing to negotiate with Hamas.

In an interview Tuesday with Charlie Rose on PBS, the former president said that President Barack Obama personally promised him that he would start working on the Middle East peace process at the beginning of his term, and not wait until the last year of his term.

“Apparently he has done that already with his public statements and telephone calls," Carter noted approvingly, adding that the first four phone calls Obama made were to the Middle East region. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton had criticized Carter for waiting to host a peace summit at Camp David between Israeli and Arab leaders at the end of his presidency. Former U.S. President George Bush also did not address Middle East peace until late in his term.

Carter did not mince words with his opinion of the policies of Bush. “I’m relieved that he’s been replaced. I think that he probably had the most disastrous term relating to foreign policy of any previous president, and he removed our nation’s reputation as a champion on human rights,” Carter stated.

President Obama also immediately appointed George Mitchell, and sent him to the Middle East on a fact-finding mission "to bring peace to the region," Carter observed. He said he was pleased with Obama’s choice. “I talked to [Mitchell] twice since he was chosen. I am thankful that he was chosen. I think he is the best possible American that could be chosen,” Carter said.

When asked if he thinks that it is possible for peace in the Middle East to reign, as he advocates in his recent book, Carter said that he indeed does. “I think that it is a propitious time for it. We’ve gotten into a crisis time,” explaining that Israel will have to decide whether peace will be negotiated through a two-state or one-state solution to peace in the region. He assessed Israel’s current modus operandi as working on a one-state solution. “That’s the way that Israel is going now, including Barak, Olmert, and Ms. Livni,” stated Carter, referring to Israel’s current leaders who have publicly called for a two-state solution.

Carter also mentioned that Jewish residence in Judea and Samaria has “made it increasingly unviable that the Palestinians could make a two-state solution likely.”

Carter said he hopes that the new U.S. envoy can meet with Hamas in brokering a peace agreement. “He will have to. Anyone who wants to negotiate for peace in the Mideast will have to speak with Hamas, who now governs 1.5 million civilians in Gaza,” Carter emphasized.

Regarding the Hamas terrorist group’s firing of rockets into Israel, Carter blames Israel for not opening up the borders and said that Hamas is merely interested in drawing world attention to the plight of Gaza civilians, who are without food and water. Carter claimed that Hamas is not interested in hurting Israelis. As "proof", the former president stated that although hundreds of rockets were fired into Sderot by Hamas between 2007 and June 2008, “only one Israeli was killed in Sderot.”

Carter, who considers himself a peacemaker, nevertheless spoke with Hamas leaders in Gaza and condemned the rocket firing as an act of terrorism. “The Hamas leaders told me that they wanted to bring international attention that they were starving to death. Forty-nine Palestinians were being killed per month on average,” Carter stated.

In April, Carter met with Hamas in Damascus, and said they told him that they would stop firing rockets into Israel when Israel would send food and water into Gaza. Carter, however, blames Israel for keeping the borders closed as a way of punishing Hamas, “because they don’t want to recognize Hamas. They want to see Fatah in power,” Carter said.

Israel: Half of Supplies were Diverted by Hamas

Israeli figures show that Carter’s claims are unfounded, however. Since the beginning of Operation ‘Cast Lead’, 74,979 tons of humanitarian supplies have been transferred to Gaza. In addition, 6,682,451 liters of fuel have been conveyed through Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom. In the ongoing humanitarian effort, since Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire more than a week ago (18 January 2009), 35,404 tons of aid has been delivered to Gaza and 2,873,900 liters of fuel.

Colonel Nir Press, head of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, stated last April that the Arabs in Gaza are staging an energy crisis while instigating a strike and protest rallies. He claims that the closed filling stations, the long lines of people and vehicles waiting many hours to fill their tanks, are all part of a planned Hamas media campaign being conducted at the expense of the civilian population - a crisis caused by their failure to pump available fuel supplies from the Nahal Oz Palestinian fuel depot. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that Hamas is intentionally harming the civilian population in the Gaza Strip by not allowing the supply of fuel for humanitarian purposes, and preventing the distribution of fuel to civilian filling stations. In addition, a substantial share of the fuel supplies - almost half - was diverted for use by the Hamas terror organization and its operatives.

In addition, the Ministry adds that deadly Hamas attacks at the Gaza crossings stand as additional testimony to the terror from Gaza directed at Israel, while attempting to create a crisis and to harness Arab public opinion against Israel as part of this campaign.

“The cynical use of the Palestinian population, as well as the stoppage of the supply of fuel for civilian and humanitarian use, could have been prevented by drawing the available fuel from the depot at the Palestinian terminal and directing it to humanitarian/civilian needs and to local filling stations, for the benefit of the residents of Gaza,” the Ministry stated.