From 13–22 April, former U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter held high-profile meetings with political and civil society leaders in Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The trip occasioned heated debates in the U.S. and Israeli media, largely because Carter planned to meet with Hamas leaders, particularly Khalid Mishal, who agreed in the course of their Damascus talks to put Hamas’s position on final status talks with Israel in writing, which Carter formally unveiled at the end of his trip (see excerpts). Initially, Carter intended to make the trip part of a larger delegation led by Nelson Mandela to raise awareness of the urgent need for Israeli-Arab peace and the interlocking nature of the region’s conflicts. After Israel denied the group’s request to meet with senior officials during the tour to protest the planned meeting with Mishal, the delegation canceled its trip, and Carter opted to go on his own on behalf of the CarterCenter. Israel agreed to receive him but denied permission for him to travel to Gaza to meet with Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh. Carter instead met with Hamas officials in Ramallah, Cairo, and Damascus. Israeli PM Ehud
Olmert, Vice PM and FM Tzipi Livni, and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian pres. Mahmud Abbas, turned down requests to meet. Carter was received 4/13 on behalf of Israel by Pres. Shimon Peres, who reprimanded him for having “caused many problems in recent years with your comments and meetings,” and 4/14 on behalf of the PA by PM Salam Fayyad. During the trip, he alsomet with the PA’s negotiation advisers, various
Israeli MKs, Israeli and Palestinian student groups, U.S. security envoy Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, Syrian pres. Bashar al-Asad, Jordan’s King Abdallah, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah. The State Dept. urged (4/10) Carter against meeting with Mishal, arguing that it went against U.S. policy of isolating Hamas. Carter responded that peace could not be achieved without including Hamas and stressed that he was traveling in a personal capacity. The following excerpts from Carter’s “Trip Report” cover his meetings with Hamas leaders and President Asad, and his overall impressions regarding the status of the peace process. The full text is available online at www.cartercenter.org.