Carter Blasts US Policy on Palestinians
Shawn Pogatchnik - AP
Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with Abbas' moderate Fatah movement.
Hamas fighters routed Fatah in their violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. The split prompted Abbas to dissolve the power-sharing government with his rivals in Hamas and set up a Fatah-led administration to govern the West Bank.
Carter said the consensus of the U.S., Israel and the EU to start funneling aid to Abbas' new government in the West Bank but continue blocking Hamas in the Gaza Strip represented an "effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples."
"All efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there's no effort from the outside to bring the two together," he said.
The U.S. and European countries cut off the Hamas-led government last year because of the Islamic militant group's refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel. They have continued to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through the United Nations and other organizations.
In the latest crisis, the U.S., Israel and much of the West have been trying to shore up Abbas in hopes that the West Bank can be made into a democratic example that would bring along Gaza.
During his speech to Ireland's annual Forum on Human Rights, the 83-year-old former president said monitors from his Carter Center observed the 2006 election that Hamas won. He said the vote was "orderly and fair" and Hamas triumphed, in part, because it was "shrewd in selecting candidates," whereas a divided, corrupt Fatah ran multiple candidates for single seats.
Far from encouraging Hamas' move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the U.S. and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.
"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.
"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.
Carter said the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza" - but Hamas routed Fatah in the fighting last week because of its "superior skills and discipline."
Israel Attacks Gaza; Contacts New Abbas Govt
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Wednesday 20 June 2007
Gaza - Israel attacked Islamist fighters in Gaza on Wednesday for the first time since Hamas seized the territory, and ended an embargo of the Palestinian Authority by opening contacts with a new government in the West Bank.
Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinian fighters in a pre-dawn incursion into the Gaza Strip to hunt for wanted militants. Israel also carried out air strikes against rocket launch sites after one rocket fired from Gaza struck Israel.
Hamas Islamist militias overran President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction and seized control of the territory a week ago. Abbas, who responded by severing ties with Hamas, denounced his Islamist rivals in his first public remarks on the crisis.
"I address our people in Gaza. I tell them that the plans of these putschist assassins have no future," he told lawmakers in a speech defending his decision to form an emergency government shutting out Hamas which was quickly endorsed by the West.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made Israel's first high-level diplomatic contact with the emergency cabinet formed by Abbas in the West Bank after last week's fighting.
Livni told Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in a telephone conversation that the establishment of his emergency cabinet, replacing one headed by Hamas, would allow "progress on various issues ... as well as advance the political process."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the exchange "represents the beginning of a dialogue between the two governments, a dialogue that was put unfortunately on hold for the period under which Hamas controlled the Palestinian government."
"We look forward to continuing to engage with the new Palestinian government," Regev said.
Israel had had no contact with the previous Palestinian government for 15 months while Hamas was in power on the back of a parliamentary election win 18 months ago. But it has maintained contacts with Abbas, who was elected separately.
The result has been a schism that leaves Gaza, a 40-km (25-mile) strip of Mediterranean coast, isolated behind a dense Israeli military cordon and tightening economic blockade.
Hamas Fires Back
Hamas has rejected Abbas's new government and still regards itself as head of a unity coalition formed in March.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri accused Abbas of being part of an Israeli and Western "plot" to cut up the Palestinian polity by separating Gaza from the occupied West Bank, 45 km (30 miles) away. In his speech, Abbas vowed to see a united state formed.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged at the White House on Tuesday to bolster Abbas, while Israel sought to tighten the screws on Hamas in Gaza.
Bush and Olmert reaffirmed their commitment to the vision of a Palestinian state but offered no concrete plan to achieve a negotiated deal with Abbas.
"He is the president of all the Palestinians," Bush said of Abbas, with Olmert at his side in the Oval Office. "He has spoken out for moderation. He is a voice that is a reasonable voice amongst the extremists in your neighborhood."
The United States and European Union pledged on Monday to lift an economic and diplomatic embargo imposed on the Palestinian Authority in March 2006 when Hamas rose to power and refused to drop its refusal to recognize Israel.
As an initial gesture, Olmert has promised to release Palestinian tax revenues withheld for more than a year. He said after the White House talks he would ask his cabinet at its next meeting on Sunday to approve the release of the funds.
The Israeli leader said he wanted to make "every possible effort to cooperate with Abbas, but he stopped short of bowing to the Palestinian president's push for full-scale peace talks, and Bush showed no sign of pressuring him to do so.
Fatah leaders question Olmert's willingness to negotiate with them. Abbas's national security chief, Mohammad Dahlan, told Reuters on Tuesday: "Israel is releasing money not because they are honorable but they just want to entrench the divide between the West Bank and Gaza."
Senior Palestinian officials said Abbas and Olmert might meet next week in Egypt but an aide to the Israeli prime minister said no date had been set for any meeting.
In further violence on Wednesday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinian gunmen, neither from Hamas, in the West Bank, where Israel maintains an occupying force and Fatah remains dominant.
Additional reporting by Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah and Avida Landau, Adam Entous and Alastair Macdonald in Jerusalem.