In Ramallah, former US President Carter also pushed for peace among the Palestinians and called for elections.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Former US President Jimmy Carter concluded a weekend mission to seek reconciliation between the Hamas terror organization and Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which have been fighting a low-level battle for the past several months.
Israel and the US, among others, consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization.
Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Saturday, Carter said that eight months after Operation Protective Edge, the situation in Gaza remains “intolerable” and that he was still determined to work for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria and Gaza.
Carter said he believes Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal is “in favor of the peace process,” while Prime Minister Netanyahu is not “in favor of a two-state solution.”
The former US president, who met earlier in the day with PA chair Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and laid a wreath on the grave of arch-terrorist and former PA head Yasser Arafat, was slated to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as well but called it off, citing unspecified security concerns.
“What we have seen and heard only strengthens our determination to work for peace,” he said. “The situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Hamas, in fact, has confiscated building materials supplied by Israel meant for civilian reconstruction, using it instead to rebuild terror infrastructure.
During the operation itself to uproot Hamas terror infrastructure and put a stop to the incessant rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians, Carter declared that there was “no justification in the world for what Israel is doing” in Gaza, calling it a humanitarian disaster.
Carter, 90, was accompanied by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, 76, who led Norway during the Oslo peace negotiations between Israel and the PA in the 1990s. Both are members of “The Elders,” an NGO of elder statesmen, peace activists and human rights advocates.
“We hope that some time we’ll see elections all over the Palestinian area and east Jerusalem and Gaza and also in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria],” he stated at a news conference with the 80-year-old PA leader, adding that elections would “be an important step for Palestinians.”
Abbas stressed the importance of ending internal Palestinian division so that the Palestinian unity government could perform its duties and also accepted the need to prepare for presidential and legislative elections.
No election has been held in the PA for nearly a decade. Abbas’ presidential mandate expired in 2009, but he has remained in office . Elections were supposed to have taken place within six months of April last year, following the Fatah-Hamas agreement that led to the formation of a national unity government. However, they have put on hold indefinitely since then, causing an outcry from Hamas, which says that Abbas has failed to fulfill his promises.
Carter has tried to bridge the gap between the two rival Palestinian factions, but the latest reports indicate that the rift is only growing. Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have been running high, with both sides making mutual accusations of corruption, graft and treason.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both turned down Carter’s request to meet with them, citing his “anti-Israel” stance as the reason. Carter claimed on Saturday that he had no interest in meeting Netanyahu. “This time we decided it was a waste of time to ask,” Carter said. “As long as he is in charge, there will be no two-state solution and therefore no Palestinian state.”
He also met with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Member of Knesset Hilik Bar, Secretary-General of the Israeli Labor Party, to discuss the opposition’s views on the failed peace process.