I don't feel the least bit sorry for Jimmy Carter, who, predictably, is being pilloried for his plans to meet the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, in Syria on Friday.
As Pete Seeger once said of the victims of McCarthyism: don't mourn those who fought. Don't mourn the people who saw clearly what the right thing to do was, and did it, fully aware of the hammer that might come down on them for doing so.
Jimmy Carter surely knew that he would be called every bad name. Perhaps he even calculated that, by calling him every bad name, his critics would do him a favor. They would call attention to his meeting, and that would call attention to some basic facts that Jimmy Carter knows, but the world doesn't know, because they have been under-reported in the Western press.
Jimmy Carter knows that 64% of Israelis told the Israeli daily Haaretz in February that they wanted their government to engage in talks with Hamas toward a cease-fire.
Jimmy Carter knows after Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, it was willing to declare a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank and allow President Abbas to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians.
Jimmy Carter knows that the blockade of Gaza being carried out by Israel, the U.S., and Egypt, far from weakening Hamas, has strengthened its grip on Gaza, as 90% of Gaza's factories have closed and many of their former employees are now working as Hamas policemen or have joined the movement's military wing.
Jimmy Carter knows that Efraim Halevy, former head of Israel's Mossad, has called for Israel to negotiate with Hamas. He knows that before the Annapolis conference, a bipartisan group of U.S. foreign-policy experts, including former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, sent a letter to President Bush and Secretary Rice saying that "genuine dialogue" with Hamas is "far preferable to its isolation."
Indeed, he knows that the U.S. has encouraged Egypt to talk to Hamas about negotiating a cease-fire. How can it be a scandal for Jimmy Carter to talk to Hamas, but not for Egypt to talk to Hamas at U.S. direction?
As Carter has said,
"There's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process."
Will the end, will the means. If the United States truly wants a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians - as opposed to just pretending that it wants one - it must deal with Hamas.