Carter vows to push for sanctions against Israel

By Aaron Klein

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visits the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan to meets with Palestinian residents on October 21, 2010. Carter was part of the a delegation of The Elders, a group of retired prominent world figures, that visited the mostly Arab neighborhood that is a frequent flashpoint between Palestinians and Israelis. UPIAmmar Awad/Pool Photo via Newscom

TEL AVIV – Former President Jimmy Carter told the Palestinian government he would work privately to push for U.S. and international sanctions against Israel, according to officials in the Palestinian Authority.

Separately, Carter told Hamas leaders that he would lobby the Obama administration to open dialogue with the terrorist organization, Hamas officials in Gaza told WND.

According to the PA officials, Carter, who visited Syria, Israel and the Palestinian territories last week, said he would lobby for sanctions against the Jewish state due to Israel’s continued blockade against the Gaza Strip as well as its “settlement activity” – Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

The PA officials said Carter expressed in meetings held with them in eastern Jerusalem that he sees so-called settlements as the main obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Carter last week visited Syria, where he met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshal as part of an international delegation that seeks to end the isolation of Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of Israel.

Hamas officials told WND that Carter told their group he would work for direct public dialogue between the U.S. and Hamas.

Following his trip to Syria, Carter made a quick stop in Israel, where he called on the Jewish state to end its blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

He also told Israeli leaders that Hamas is interested in renewing negotiations for a prisoner-swap deal in exchange for captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

In 2009, Carter made a solidarity trip to the Gaza Strip, embracing Hamas leaders and calling for the international community to open dialogue with a group labeled by the State Department as a terrorist organization. Hamas is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.

Last year, Hamas officials told WND Carter presented their Islamist group with a written initiative intended to open talks between the Hamas and the U.S. without Hamas having to accept all conditions previously laid out for dialogue by the American government.

Those conditions, expressed twice by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are Hamas’ renouncement of violence, recognition of Israel and agreement to abide by previous PLO commitments. The conditions were adopted by the Mideast Quartet, which consists of the U.S., United Nations, Russia and the European Union.

Carter, however, handed Hamas last week a letter “that aims to open dialogue between Hamas and U.S.,” Mushir al-Masri, a member of Hamas’ parliament and a spokesman for the Islamist group, told WND today.

Two top Hamas sources told WND Carter’s initiative bypasses Clinton’s conditions and instead asks Hamas to recognize the so-called two-state solution as well as the Arab Peace Initiative.

Carter passed message from White House?

During Carter’s trip last year to the Gaza Strip, WND quoted senior sources in Hamas claiming Carter passed a message to Hamas from the Obama administration.

The sources did not disclose the content of the purported message or whether the communication was written or oral. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because they said Hamas had not yet reached a decision on officially releasing the information they were divulging.

Separately, in an interview with WND after Carter’s Gaza trip last year, Hamas’ chief political adviser in Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, refused to confirm or deny that any message was passed to his group from the White House.

Yousef said, however, Carter is the “right person” to serve as a middleman between Hamas and the Obama administration.

“If we have anything to communicate, Carter will be the right person to convey messages from the movement (Hamas) to this (Obama) administration or from the administration to the movement,” said Yousef, speaking from Gaza.

Yousef told WND he spent three hours with Carter, holding private meetings and also showing the former president areas of Gaza that were damaged during Israel’s 22-day campaign against Hamas that ended in January.

“He promised he will write a report to explain what really is happening in Gaza,” said Yousef.

Separately, al-Masri said in a joint interview with WND and Israel’s, “We know Carter is not acting alone. He is acting as part of the large American system.”

Al-Masri refused to confirm or deny whether Carter passed any message to his group from Obama.

Still, he claimed Hamas has “excellent relations with elements in the circle of the decision-making in the U.S. administration.”

“We are appreciating the change in the attitude in the U.S. toward Hamas,” he said.