Mon, Apr 21st - 11:40AM
Hamas ready to talk Peace
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said Monday that Hamas – the
Islamic militant group that has called for the destruction of Israel –
is prepared to accept the right of the Jewish state to "live as a
neighbour next door in peace."
Carter relayed the message in a
speech in Jerusalem after meeting last week with top Hamas leaders in
Syria. It capped a nine-day visit to the Middle East aimed at breaking
the deadlock between Israel and Hamas militants who rule the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leaders "said that they would accept a Palestinian state on the
1967 borders" and they would "accept the right of Israel to live as a
neighbour next door in peace," Carter said.
The borders he
referred to were the frontiers that existed before Israel captured
large swaths of Arab lands in the 1967 Mideast War – including the West
Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.
In the past, Hamas officials have
said they would establish a ``peace in stages" if Israel were to
withdraw to the borders it held before 1967. But it has been evasive
about how it sees the final borders of a Palestinian state and has not
abandoned its official call for Israel's destruction.
which evacuated Gaza in 2005, has accepted the idea of a Palestinian
state there and in the West Bank. But it has resisted Palestinian
demands that it return to its 1967 frontiers.
Carter urged Israel to engage in direct negotiations with Hamas, saying failure to do so was hampering peace efforts.
"We do not believe that peace is likely and certainly that peace is not
sustainable unless a way is found to bring Hamas into the discussions
in some way," he said. "The present strategy of excluding Hamas and
excluding Syria is just not working."
Israel considers Hamas to
be a terrorist group and has shunned Carter because of his meetings
with Hamas' supreme chief, Khaled Mashaal, and other Hamas figures.
Syria harbours Hamas' exiled leadership in its capital, Damascus, and
supports the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas who warred with Israel in
the summer of 2006.
Carter said Hamas promised it wouldn't
undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to reach a peace
deal with Israel, as long as the Palestinian people approved it in a
referendum. In such a scenario, he said Hamas would not oppose a
Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza said Hamas' readiness to put a peace deal to a
referendum "does not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of
Such a referendum, he said, would have to be
voted on by Palestinians living all over the world. They number about
9.3 million, including some four million living in the West Bank, Gaza
and east Jerusalem.
The only senior Israeli official to meet
with Carter was President Shimon Peres. During their meeting, Peres
scolded Carter for meeting with the Islamic militant group.
Israel says Carter's talks embolden Palestinian extremists and hurt
Palestinian moderates as they try to make peace with the Jewish state.
Abbas, who rules only the West Bank, is in a bitter rivalry with Hamas.
"The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria," Carter said
Monday. "The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to
meet with someone who must be involved."
Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking has "regressed" since a U.S.-hosted
conference in Annapolis, Md., in November. He faulted Israel for
continuing to build on disputed land the Palestinians want for a future
state and for its network of roadblocks that severely hamper both Israelis and
Palestinians travelling in the West Bank. "The prison around Gaza has been tightened," he said, referring to Israel's blockade of the territory since the Hamas takeover.Now that Carter has managed to bridge the gap, will Israel join the peace talks?
In other news, oil prices spiked last night to a record US$117.40 a barrel after a
Japanese oil tanker was hit by a rocket near Yemen and militants in
Nigeria claimed two attacks on pipelines.
Check out the History of Oil Prices at Hundred Dollar Oil.