Carter prepares to embrace Haniyeh in Gaza
Carter prepares to embrace Haniyeh in Gaza Israel news photo: Flash 90

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s personal effort to make Hamas a peace partner has set off alarm bells in the White House. "[We] won't have more to say about this,” a government official said after being asked about reports that Carter will propose to U.S. President Barack Obama that the United States take Hamas off the list of illegal terrorist organizations.

He made the comment shortly after he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by terrorists who had planted a huge bomb near the path where he was traveling.

The White House is livid with Carter, according to an experienced Middle East expert who was quoted on the website of the widely respected Foreign Policy magazine. “They are very pissed,” he said. "Just like with President Clinton, Carter is becoming a huge problem and a growing concern for Obama.”

Hamas has jumped on the Carter visit to Gaza, claiming the former president represents American policy and categorically stating it will recognize the State of Israel based on the 1949-1967 borders.

The terrorist organization, which runs the de facto government in Gaza, also said that Carter is delivering a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama. “People in Gaza were spreading rumors last week that Carter was bringing Hamas a letter from Obama," the expert told Foreign Policy. "It's absurd.”

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Carter's visit to Gaza follows by two days discussions with Jewish residents in Gush Etzion where the former president surprised observers with a statement that he does not foresee his host community of Neve Daniel being part of a future Palestinian Authority country.

Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. negotiator for the Middle East, also discounted Carter’s statements on removing Hamas from the list of terrorist groups. "That's a key to an empty room right now, given everything that Obama is trying to do with [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas," he told the website. "In fact, the way to lose both of them and much of Congress to boot would be to do precisely what the former president recommends."

In an attempt to impress the U.S., de factor Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh for perhaps the first time ever, explicitly stated that Hamas would recognize an Israeli state based on the 1949 Armistice Line borders. Hamas is "prepared to accept a state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. If there is a real project that aims to resolve the Palestinian cause on establishing a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, under full Palestinian sovereignty, we will support it,” he declared. However, Hamas deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Yousef later said, "Recognizing Israel is completely unacceptable."

In Gaza, Carter thoroughly castigated Israel, which he blamed for poor economic and social conditions in Gaza. “My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people,” he said at a press conference with Haniyeh.

Carter heaped blame on Israel for destruction in the Operation Cast Lead campaign against terrorists, without mentioning deadly rocket attacks by Hamas on southern Israel. “I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wreaked against your people…by bombs from F-16s made in my country.”

The European Union also is encouraging Hamas to become a legitimate peace partner. The Associated Press noted that a statement by 27 EU Foreign Ministers this week omitted the usual references to demands that Hamas renounce terrorism and accept agreements made by previous Palestinian Authority governments. A statement this week by EU ministers urged” inter-Palestinian reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah that is “based on non-violence.”