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Jimmy Carter: Hamas a 'Legitimate Political Actor'

9:02 AM, Aug 5, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter takes to ForeignPolicy.com to argue that the key to ending the current war in Gaza is "recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor." Writing along with fellow "Elder" Mary Robinson (part of an "international group of elder statesmen"), the former president pins the blame for the current conflict on Israel's refusal to appreciate a "major concession" made by Hamas in April and to recognize the new Palestinian government formed by the Hamas-Fatah "reconciliation":

This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government's deployment in Gaza.

While Carter and Robinson excoriate Israel for its conduct of the war, Hamas escapes with only a single reference to its "war crimes" (committed by "both sides") as "unacceptable":

There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles, and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed. Much of Gaza has lost access to water and electricity completely. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. 

There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes. This is true for both sides. Hamas's indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians is equally unacceptable. However, three Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets, while an overwhelming majority of the 1,600 Palestinians killed have been civilians, including more than 330 children. The need for international judicial proceedings to investigate and end these violations of international law should be taken very seriously.

Carter and Robinson conclude: 

[T]he United States and EU should recognize that Hamas is not just a military but also a political force... Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor -- one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people -- can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons... 

Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel

Carter was awarded the Nobel prize in 2002 for "his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

The entire Hamas article can be found here.

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