Jimmy Carter vented his anger against Israel again last Thursday, giving the Jewish state a birthday present penned in poisoned ink ("Innocents caught in the crossfire," @issue). While friends throughout the world congratulated the country on countless achievements in 60 years, Carter focused on one tragic problem, on which he stands out for his one-sided approach.
Palestinians in Gaza are suffering, but Carter prolongs their pain. He says that Hamas are men of peace, just elected officials wrongly attacked and imprisoned for no reason. He mentions that "rudimentary" rockets from Gaza have rained down on Israeli towns with no military targets, killing 13 civilians and completely disrupting life. He finally got around to condemning these as "abominable acts of terrorism," after long refusing to use the word.
What didn't he say?
Hamas happily claims responsibility for the murders of hundreds of Israeli citizens over the years. Israel sometimes tragically kills civilians, because combatants hide among them. Hamas targets noncombatants.
Hamas seized control of Gaza last year, after Israel's withdrawal, through vicious attacks on moderates in the Palestinian Authority, so the P.A. condemns them, just as Israel and the U.S. do. Most nations, including Arab ones, call Hamas terrorists.
Yet Carter met with them last month and emerged declaring they would recognize Israel's right to exist. Perhaps his reckless rogue diplomacy had for once accomplished something? I thought, wait till tomorrow.
It didn't take that long; in a few hours Hamas responded: They would never recognize Israel. Did Carter lie to the world? Maybe, but I prefer to think he was lying to himself, as he has foolishly done before.
As president, he praised the shah for making Iran "an island of stability" because of "the love which your people give you." Iran was soon our implacable enemy. He toasted Poland's Stalinist henchmen as "enlightened leaders" protecting human rights. He said of Ceausescu, later executed for his savage rule of Romania, "Our goals are the same . . . enhancing human rights."
Post-presidency, Carter consistently undermined our nation's foreign policy. He fawned on Nicaraguan ruler Daniel Ortega; Ortega himself now repudiates what he did back then. He lobbied in the U.N. Security Council against the U.S. plan to free Kuwait, and urged our Arab allies to abandon us days before the war. National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said, "If there was ever a violation of the Logan Act, prohibiting diplomacy by private citizens, this was it."
But he's a nonpartisan underminer. On President Bill Clinton's watch, he visited war criminal Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and opposed American military intervention, which would soon halt ethnic cleansing. He visited Kim Il-Sung, the dictator Stalin picked for North Korea, and called it "tragic" that the International Atomic Energy Agency had (correctly) reported violations. Carter helped give them a 10-year breathing space to build their nuclear weapons program.
Overall, Scowcroft said, "his political judgment was just awful." But it was consistent: He coddled dictators. During his recent visit to the Middle East, Carter told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, "When I go to a dictatorship, I only have to talk to one person and that's the dictator, because he speaks for all the people."
Also last Thursday, Yossi Beilin, Israel's leading dove, explained reality in a BBC interview: "Hamas says, 'We will never have peace with Israel, we will never recognize Israel, and we will never negotiate with Israel.' So, we cannot impose ourselves on a partner which doesn't want to talk to us, especially when the PLO is the official partner of the Palestinian side.
"What we have to do with Hamas is to have a cease fire with them . . . through a third party. . . . It is far from what I envisioned in the past. But right now, we were imposed by the Americans to include Hamas in the elections two years ago. It was a huge, huge, crazy mistake of President Bush." Still, Beilin is optimistic about peace in the near future with the P.A. and Syria.
Actually, that election was a huge, huge, crazy mistake of Carter's, endorsed by President Bush —- part of Carter's plan to bring democracy everywhere, ready or not.
There will be a Palestinian state, period. There will be peace. But it will not include active terrorists. It will embrace the people of Gaza once they outgrow Hamas. And meanwhile Jimmy Carter should get out of the way.