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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is defending his planned meeting with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal saying that isolating Hamas is counterproductive.
“I think it is absolutely crucial that in the final and dreamed-about and prayed-for peace agreement for this region that Hamas be involved and Syria will be involved,” he told a business conference outside Tel Aviv.
“I can’t say that they will be amenable to any suggestions, but at least after I meet with them I can go back and relay what they say, as just a communicator, to the leaders of the United States,” he said.
U.S. and Israeli leaders have lambasted Carter’s planned trip and the Associate Press reports that Israel’s top leaders are boycotting Carter’s during his scheduled nine-day trip. Carter visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which as been the target of thousands of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
“I think it’s a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians, and my hope is there will be a cease-fire soon,” Carter told reporters.
U.S. and Israeli officials argue that Carter’s meeting with Mashall will serve to legitimize Hamas. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said
“The president believes that if president Carter wants to go, that he is doing so in his own private capacity, as a private citizen, he is not representing the United States”
While both governments have snubbed Carter, it is important to note that according to Haaretz, most Israelis back direct talks with Hamas.
Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks.
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