Against the backdrop of former US president Jimmy Carter’s visit to the Middle East, 19 Palestinians and four Israeli soldiers were killed on Wednesday in a fresh round of violence in Gaza.
Carter’s comment that ignoring Hamas is “counterproductive” is right on the money, says The Real News analyst Aijaz Ahmad. Ahmad points out that Hamas won a majority of votes in legitimate elections, and–unlike the Fatah government that now controls the West Bank–speaks for a majority of Palestinians.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: The Israeli army attacked attacked a series of targets throughout the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing at least 19 Palestinians. Among the dead was a Reuters cameraman who was killed in an air strike while filming Israeli tank movements, medical officials said. Israeli forces lost three troops in clashes at several locations in Gaza. Army spokespeople said they raided the area to stop Palestinian militants from launching rockets into Israel. Hamas said four of its fighters died in northern Gaza. Former United States President Jimmy Carter, in the midst of a Mideast peace tour, said on Wednesday leaving Hamas out of consultations on a peace agreement was counterproductive.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER US PRESIDENT: I don’t think it’s possible without involving Hamas. I don’t care if Hamas represents 10 percent of the Palestinian people or 42 percent, 44 percent. It doesn’t matter to me. But to have them completely excluded even from conversations or consultations I think is counterproductive.
We spoke to Senior News Analyst Aijaz Ahmad.
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: The significance of this statement is that it comes from Jimmy Carter, perhaps the only recent president of the United States who commands a great deal of respect around the globe. For the rest, what he says is obvious and true, and in fact less than the truth, because no one has to guess whether Hamas represents 10 percent or 42 percent or 44 percent. Elections were held in the occupied territories quite recently, and they were declared to be fair by all the international observers—Europeans, as well as the Carter Center itself. And in that, Hamas won the majority and formed a government. The United States and the other western countries responded by suddenly making several demands on Hamas: that it unilaterally recognize Israel, it forswears the use of weapons; and unless it did so, they would impose sanctions, which they then proceeded to do. Moreover, they got the Fatah government, led by President Abbas, to encircle Hamas, and finally got Abbas to dismiss the government. Nevertheless, I think it’s very important to remember that this Hamas represents the majority of the Palestinians. Now, whether or not the United States and Israel should talk to Hamas, everyone else in the world except governments in the western world believe that they should. In fact, the majority of Israelis are now saying that the Israeli government should negotiate with Hamas openly. The irony of it is that Olmert’s government in Israel, the Bush government in the United States, are among the most unpopular governments in the world, and they are the ones refusing to recognize Hamas, even to the extent of opening discussions with them. Not only that, the most significant thing that has happened is that Jimmy Carter, who wanted to go to Gaza and meet with the former Prime Minister Haniyeh, was barred by the Israelis from even going to Gaza. This is really quite extraordinary. Instead, therefore, he is going to Damascus. He’ll be meeting Khaled Mashaal of Hamas, as well as the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. And he says that he is going to persuade them to declare their position, and take the messages back to whoever is willing to listen to them. These are developments that are upsetting the Israeli government as well as the Bush administration a great deal, because of the great prestige that Carter commands around the world.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.