Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama's Finding That Using Carter Is A Two-Edged Sword (Updated)

I posted a couple of days ago about the report by Aaron Klein of World Net Daily that while meeting with Hamas, Carter relayed Obama's willingness to drop the 3 preconditions:
Former President Jimmy Carter presented Hamas with a written initiative intended to open talks between the Islamist group and the U.S. without Hamas having to accept all conditions previously laid out for dialogue by the American government, top Hamas officials told WND.

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. [emphasis added]
This new policy towards Hamas dovetails with Carter's apparent new relevance in the Obama administration. Helena Cobban writes about Carter's reemergence:
just one day after returning to the US from his grueling two-week tour around the Middle East, the 84-year-old former President from Plains met with senior administration officials here in Washington DC. (Update: The senior officials he met with included Sen. George Mitchell, as is spelled out in the updated version of the IPS story.)

In the piece, I also note that that meeting,
underlined the change in Carter’s relevance and status in the Obama era. The visits he made to the Middle East while George W. Bush was president were barely tolerated by the administration, which kept him at arm’s length.
...So now that Carter is indeed getting access to senior figures in the Obama administration-- and his ideas are gaining a respectful and engaged hearing there-- some of those same tired retreads from the Clinton years (like Aaron Miller) are at it again. [Hat tip: Soccer Dad]
Cobban, however, may be more thrilled with Carter's new found pull than others are--and those others seem to include the White House as well, according to the LA Times:
Here's the scary thing for the new White House: the terrifying words "Jimmy Carter" have started appearing in print and on the air, recalling the ex-Georgia governor's ineptness and....

...apparent powerlessness in handling his Iranian (hostage) issues in the late 1970s. That impression lead to 12 years of Reagan-Bush Republican White Houses.
The Obama is finding that the image of Carter has not been rehabilitated. That being the case, one can hope that he will be seldom used by the White House--and his ideas even less so, starting with the idea of treating terrorist groups that bomb civilians as negotiating partners.

UPDATE: Rick Richman has further information on whom Carter met with in the White House:
the State Department disclosed that there had indeed been prior contacts: Carter had met with Near Eastern Affairs Bureau Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hale and with National Security staff, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security had assisted the Secret Service with security for Carter’s trip to Gaza.
and notes the hypocrisy in dealing with Hamas:
There is a certain imbalance in an administration that asserts the strictest possible interpretation of Israel’s Phase I Roadmap obligations, while simultaneously facilitating meetings for a former president with the terrorist group the Palestinians — as part of their own Phase I obligations — are required to dismantle. And the proposal presented at the meetings does not appear to have been merely one by a private citizen: the proposal ought to be disclosed, together with a better explanation of the administration’s role in it.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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