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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carter: 'More harm than good'; Olmert: Inconsistent as usual

The consensus among American and Israeli policy makers is that Dhimmi Carter's mission to our region, which ended on Monday, has done more harm than good. Here's the Israeli assessment
But, while [Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, who met with Carter. CiJ] wanted to work with Carter, one government official said the former US president had done more harm than good, even with the promise of a new letter. The Schalit family had previously received a letter from their son last June.

According to this official, Hamas is dissatisfied that, despite holding Schalit for almost two years, they have not gotten what they want from the Israeli government - the release of high-profile terrorists - for his return.

In an attempt to pressure the Israeli public to pressure the government, Hamas is interested in opening up another negotiating track which bypasses Dekel and the government, and goes directly to the public.

Carter, the official said, serves this purpose, because the impression that things could move much faster if only another channel of communications were tapped is exactly the message Hamas wanted the Israeli public to hear.

The official said it was clear that Hamas was using Carter for its purposes, and that Mashaal, who knew far in advance that Carter was coming to Damascus to meet him, could very well have had a letter to give the former president from Schalit. It's all about shaping Israeli public opinion, the official said.

The official said that Hamas also used Carter to give it legitimization.
I believe that the US State Department would agree with that assessment.
In Washington, deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey brushed aside Hamas's offer, saying the group's past rhetoric contained "all this language about truces and other kinds of issues. But the bottom line is, Hamas still believes in the destruction of the state of Israel; they don't believe Israel has a right to exist," adding it was clear "that nothing has changed" in Hamas's attitude - including that the group still refuses to explicitly recognize Israel and denounce terrorism.
And indeed, Hamas' 'truce' offer was even less than it was cracked up to be:
Khaled Mashaal, whose group has sworn to destroy Israel, told reporters in Damascus on Monday that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank with Israel as its neighbor, but stressed that his group would not formally recognize it, a move immediately dismissed by the US as meaningless.

"We agree to a (Palestinian) state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel," Mashaal said."We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition."

Mashaal said he made the offer to Carter during talks between the two men on Friday and Saturday in the Syrian capital.

Mashaal used the Arabic word "hudna," meaning truce, which is more concrete than "tahadiyeh" - a period of calm - which Hamas often uses to describe a simple cease-fire. Hudna implies a recognition of the other party's existence.
Actually, that's not what a hudna implies at all.
A hudna [also known as a hudibiyya or khudaibiya] is a tactical cease-fire that allows the Arabs to rebuild their terrorist infrastructure in order to be more effective when the "cease-fire" is called off."
But the worst thing in all of this may be the performance of the Olmert-Barak-Livni government. Once again, Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert cannot make a decision and stick to it. Olmert decided not to let Defense Minister Ehud Barak meet with Carter, but he apparently did approve Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai of Shas meeting with Carter.
It is extremely unlikely that Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai could have met with former US president Jimmy Carter about kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit without Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's tacit approval, a senior government source said Monday, following the second Yishai-Carter meeting on the matter in a week.

The source said Olmert's office had squashed Defense Minister Ehud Barak's original plans to meet Carter, and would have easily been able to do the same to Yishai's meeting had he wanted.

Instead, the official said, Olmert had an interest in the meeting taking place to "leave no stone unturned" in efforts to secure Schalit's release. [Some stones - like releasing terrorists - are better left unturned to protect other potential kidnap victims as well as the general population. This is typical Olmert weakness. CiJ].

Barak had at first agreed to meet with Carter, the source said, but then changed his mind after being asked to do so by the Prime Minister's Office.


The source said that of all the cabinet members, Yishai was the most logical to meet with Carter regarding Schalit, since he could say that he was trying to carry out the religious imperative of redeeming captives ("pidyon shvuyim").

When asked whether Yishai's meeting with Carter had been done with Olmert's approval, or whether Yishai was Olmert's messenger, one senior official in the Prime Minister's Office responded by saying, "Yishai is expressing his own opinion. He is not expressing the opinion of the government or the prime minister."

Yishai's associates, meanwhile, vigorously denied that Olmert had intervened in his meetings with Carter. They said Olmert had not used him to send messages to Hamas or to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and that the prime minister had neither encouraged nor discouraged Yishai from meeting Carter.

Yishai has said for months that he was ready to meet Hamas, so he had no problem agreeing to meet with Carter, a source close to him said. "He thinks that it's better to confront people with abhorrent views rather than avoid them."
As to Yishai's motivation, I believe that National Union/National Religious Party MK Effie Eitam hit it on the head:
National Union MK Effi Eitam said Yishai's meetings with Carter were intended to distract the public and make it look like he was accomplishing something by keeping Shas in Olmert's coalition.

"It's all intended to justify the shame Yishai feels for remaining in a government that should have gone home a long time ago," Eitam said. "Shas's voters will remember this and take their revenge in the ballot box."
I hope Eitam is right about Shas' voters, but I doubt it.


At 7:21 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Pursuing the Torah commandment is important but not if it would place other Jews' lives in danger. As for Carter, well Hamas' contracted him on recognition of Israel. He was perfectly happy to be made out a liar and a fool. Which says a good deal about his intelligence and character.


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