Apr 25, 2008

Carter's Visit Emboldens Terrorists

By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

Dear Friend of Israel,

Earlier this week, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter returned from a weeklong trip to the Middle East. During his trip, Carter met with a number of Hamas leaders, including the head of the terrorist group, Khaled Mashaal. Carter took his trip against the wishes of the U.S. government, and despite an outcry in the press and strong opposition from both Democratic and Republican elected officials — and I might add, despite the efforts of Fellowship supporters, who sent tens of thousands of emails to the former president urging him to cancel his trip.

After his meetings with Hamas, Carter immediately began trumpeting his accomplishments. At a press conference in Jerusalem, he assured the world that "There's no doubt that both the Arab world and Hamas will accept Israel's right to exist in peace within 1967 borders." As to the ongoing conflict between rival Hamas and Fatah factions that has caused such bloodshed in Gaza, Carter said Hamas promised it wouldn't undermine Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel, as long as the Palestinian people approved the initiative in a referendum.

Carter leads us to believe that he succeeded where so many others have failed. But then Hamas made some statements of its own. Khaled Mashaal, who Carter met with just days before, immediately contradicted Carter. "We agree to a (Palestinian) state on pre-67 borders," he said, "with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements but without recognizing Israel." Meanwhile, another Hamas leader chimed in on the possibility of allowing Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate peace with Israel, assuring the press that even if there is a referendum that approves a peace deal with Israel it "does not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of the referendum." Carter couldn't even get Hamas to agree to a 30-day ceasefire with Israel, one of the two specific proposals he brought to the table.

Behind all of this, of course, lies a larger reality that Carter seems determined to ignore. Hamas is a terrorist organization. The primary reason for its existence is the elimination of Israel. As long as Hamas holds this position, any efforts at peacemaking are doomed to failure. One State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, summed up the situation well, saying, "What is clear to us is that there certainly is no change in Hamas' position … It does not recognize Israel's right to exist, it has not eschewed or walked away from terrorism and violence, nor has it said it will honor any of the previous agreements that have been made with the Israeli government."

Meanwhile, as Carter's visit to the region wound down, events on the ground demonstrated the futility of his efforts. Missile attacks on Israel from Gaza continued daily. On Saturday, the first full day of Passover, Hamas staged a bold attack at a Gaza-Israel border crossing. Two jeeps packed with explosives broke through to the Israeli side of the crossing and exploded. An armored vehicle followed and terrorists jumped out, attacking Israeli soldiers guarding the crossing. Thirteen Israeli soldiers were injured. One high-ranking IDF officer called the attack "the worst we've seen since the [2005] disengagement."

Sadly, this is the real fruit of Carter's visit: an emboldened Hamas, and IDF soldiers injured while defending their country. You might think this would give Carter pause. But he has been silent about these attacks, too busy talking about his "success" to notice that Israel's struggle for real peace and security continues despite his efforts. Former President Carter's "success" reminded me of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's promise to the English people in 1938 that he had secured "Peace for our time" after his negotiations with Hitler. We know how that story ended Chamberlain's "peace" was followed by one of the most brutal, far-reaching wars in modern history, and the extermination of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

Now more than ever, Israel needs our support. There are meaningful things you can do to support Israel in her struggle things that will help counter the destructive efforts of Jimmy Carter and others like him.
Forward this message to a friend, so that they will know the truth of Jimmy Carter's trip a truth that the former president himself won't tell you. Given the threats facing Israel today and the ongoing attacks against her, give to our campaign to renovate bomb shelters across Israel, so that Israelis will have safe places to take refuge. And, above all, please continue your heartfelt prayers for the peace of Jerusalem.

With prayers for shalom, peace,