We’ve often been critical of the State Department, but it’s good to see that Foggy Bottom draws the line at Jimmy Carter’s projected goodwill mission to Hamas. Condoleezza Rice got headlines today by criticizing Carter, without, however, mentioning his name. Here is the full exchange, from a press conference earlier today:
QUESTION: [O]n the issue of Hamas, Madame Secretary, you told President Carter, or the State Department told President Carter, that a meeting with Hamas would be ill-advised. Why would a meeting with Hamas be detrimental to your policy to advance the Mideast peace process, especially in light of this upcoming peace conference that President Bush is trying to arrange? Thank you.
RICE: Let me speak first to Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization. Hamas has been offered many opportunities to come into line with international standards concerning the Middle East. That means accepting the obligations and the agreements that Palestinian leaders going back for more than a decade have actually signed, and Hamas has been unwilling to do that.
The legitimate President of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, has made very clear his conditions for any discussion with Hamas, including the fact that Hamas launched a coup against the legitimate Palestinian institutions in Gaza and are now the principal reason that Gazans are suffering under really deplorable circumstances. We certainly continue to try to do everything we can from a humanitarian point of view, but let’s point the finger exactly where it belongs. It belongs on Hamas for having caused that coup against the Palestinian Authority, and it belongs on Hamas — the blame does — for continuing rocket fire against innocent Israeli civilians. So I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace.
The State Department has twice asked Carter not to meet with Hamas, and several Congressional Democrats, in a welcome deviation from that party’s usual stance, have signed a letter urging Carter to reconsider. My guess, though, is that Carter will do whatever he wants, and that he’ll want to meet with Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal. As for his motivation, you can all indulge your own speculations.