Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The problem and solution to Jimmy Carter

I don't have a problem with Carter speaking to Hamas. I do think it would be a mistake for Israel to speak with Hamas, since it cuts Palestinian moderates advantages. David Trimble, who has a Nobel Peace Prize for his role ending the violence in Northern Ireland, made the point that preconditions on talks were productive and even productive there. But Carter isn't Israel, and I don't have a problem with Carter talking to Hamas.

I do have a problem with all the press coverage I've seen, which breathlessly tells us things like "Carter Says Hamas and Syria Are Open to Peace." That quote is the New York Times headline. Then, in the eighth paragraph, Carter and the Times become very confusing:
In a subsequent interview, Mr. Carter struck a more cautious note, saying, “I’m not claiming it’s a breakthrough.” He added, “I don’t have any control over whether or not Hamas does what they tell me.”

Hamas’s charter calls for Israel’s destruction, and it has consistently refused to recognize Israel. But Mr. Carter says that Hamas is coming around to the idea of a two-state solution.
And then later still:
But Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader with whom Mr. Carter met in Damascus, gave a televised news conference late Monday in which he seemed to contradict Mr. Carter’s statements. “Hamas accepts the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and with full and real sovereignty and full application of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, but Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel,” Mr. Meshal said.
What I heard on WNYC was as breathlessly optimistic, but there I had to wait a full day for even a slight moderation. They acknowledge that Meshal has made contradictory statements. And they quote a commenter from the website, who wrote:
When they promise a "ten-year cease-fire," they are speaking in code to those who know Muslim history. Mohammed famously declared a ten-year hudna with a tribe that controlled Mecca; when sufficiently rearmed after two years, he declared a technical "violation" on the part of the other tribe and invaded and conquered them. A "ten-year cease-fire" is code for a temporary truce that will be broken when they are sufficiently armed (in this case, by Iran). Carter and others would do well to learn the history and culture of those with whom they presume to negotiate.
This is certainly right-wing and probably racist. This is presented as if it were the other side of the story. It serves as a pro-Israel perspective to balance Carter (the host and guest on the show positioned in the middle). Even a public radio station might fall victim to the same sensationalist impulse that encourages other media outlets to present the two(?) sides as the extremes of the two(?) sides. But here it completely misrepresents so many Jews, like myself. And the reason for that is probably the way Carter promoted his own peace-making prowess, presenting Hamas as something other than what they are.

Even Meretz USA's Ralph Seliger -a real peacenik, dovish, Jew-unlike the guy who's comment was read on the radio- is less than thrilled:
If you read the article, as opposed to the headline, the NY Times report on what Pres. Carter has claimed to achieve in Syria is far from encouraging. The layering of complicated conditions would mean, in effect, a capitulation to Hamas, with a referendum including the participation of Palestinians outside of the territories likely to result in a demand for an unlimited Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.
"Capitulation to Hamas" in return for "Hamas will not recognize the state of Israel." Not promising. Yesterday, in Ha'aretz, I read that what Hamas was willing to accept is a "transitional" Palestinian state, which I understood to mean a staged plan for destroying Israel.

Since this -not the conflict, but this misrepresentation which will bite Jews in the ass- is essentially Carter's fault, here's my solution: Make Carter go back to Hamas. Make him ask why they put him in that spot. Make him ask Meshal for something concrete. Make him follow the situation in more than a sporadic way based on his Christian-influenced frame. Make him negotiate for something concrete and productive as the new precondition for Israel talking to Hamas.

No comments: