Jimmy Carter: Hamas is a legitimate political actor

Former US president calls for international investigation into human rights violations by Israel, cites uneven civilian casualties on both sides.

Former US President Jimmy Carter. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US President Jimmy Carter.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US President Jimmy Carter, in an analysis he wrote for Foreign Policy (FP), stated that "Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise. 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."
In the article, Carter praised Hamas for making a "major concession" in April when it entered into a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas. In the reconciliation agreement, Hamas gave up all of the top government positions to technocratic Fatah appointees pending elections.
Carter also credits Hamas with adopting de facto the unity government's pledge to nonviolence, recognition of Israel and adherence to past agreements.
Without mentioning Hamas aggression and continued libel against Israel leading up to the outbreak of recent events, Carter squarely points at Israel as the only culprit in the outbreak of violence and the dissolution of a Palestinian unity government, writing, "Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new [Palestinian unity] government's deployment in Gaza."
Throughout the FP op-ed, Carter denounces Israel's operation in Gaza as illegitimate. "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," the former president wrote.
Although he writes that there is "no excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict," Carter compares Hamas's indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilian communities to the retaliatory bombings of targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip, writing, "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 goes on to demand that the UN force Israel to end the "siege," making no mention of the Egyptian blockade of Gaza, international monitors in Gaza, and preventing smuggling of weapons into Gaza. He also called for an EU Border Assistance Mission to help the PA govern Gaza, and completely free movement of people in and out of Gaza through Egypt, Israel and the sea.
Only after recognizing Hamas as a political player, conceding to all its terms and removing all restrictions of access in and out of the Gaza Strip will Hamas be provided "incentives to lay down its weapons," former president Jimmy Carter writes.