The Turkish Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Sunday that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Thursday to meet with Palestinian Hamas officials.
A Palestinian security source, who requested anonymity, told the Agency “Carter will arrive in Gaza on Thursday through the [Israeli-controlled] Erez border crossing to meet with leading Hamas officials,”
Maher Abu Sabha, head of the Palestinian border authority, told AA that the director of Carter’s office would arrive in Gaza Sunday accompanied by a security delegation to prepare for Carter’s “imminent visit”.
As of late Sunday, no U.S. news sources had reported on the purpose of the expected visit.
A week ago, Israel officials, advised of the Carter visit, announced that “Israel has officially decided to boycott Carter’s visit”. The officials added that “Israel would not bar Carter from entering Israel or from crossing to Gaza”.
The Middle East Monitor added in its visit announcement that Carter “is undertaking Saudi-backed mediation efforts between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah”.
Carter recently met with prominent Saudi officials and urged their intervention to achieve reconciliation between Palestinian factions. His intervention was welcomed by the Saudi officials in Riyadh, the same Palestinian source told the Anadolu Agency.
This Palestinian source added, “The Saudi government has begun preparations for mediation between the two [Palestinian] movements to reach a ‘Mecca II’ agreement.”
“The Saudi government is seeking guarantees from both Fatah and Hamas that they’re serious about reconciliation before mediation efforts would start,” the source added.
Carter had recently visited Qatar and met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal who assured him that his movement is serious about reconciling with Fatah, the source said.
Carter visited the Gaza Strip in 2009 where he held several meetings with leading Hamas figures, including the group’s deputy leader Ismail Haniyeh.
The first Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah was reached in 2007 through the efforts of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
This agreement followed the formation of a Palestinian unity government which held West Bank and Gaza legislative elections in January, 2006. President Carter was prominently involved in monitoring that election.
To the shock and amazement of the U.S. government of President George W. Bush, Hamas won that election decisively, sending a majority of legislators to a newly formed Palestinian Parliament.
Instead of supporting the electoral will of the Palestinian voters, President Bush, through CIA forces in the region, sided with Fatah and helped train military forces aligned with Fatah.
Israel cooperated in the action by arresting a large number of recently elected members of the legislature and, in some cases, held them for long periods of time. This effectively prevented the recently elected legislature from holding any formal meetings.
The historical background of the current Fatah-Hamas standoff was presented in careful detail in a New Republic article, February 13, 2013 by John B. Judis. entitled, Clueless in Gaza: New evidence that Bush undermined a two-state solution.
Judis turns first to Elliott Abrams to examine what became of the official narrative of the start of the Palestinian government split in 2007. He also reports on an effective debunking of that narrative. He begins:
A decisive turning point in the recent political history of Palestine came in June 2007, when Hamas defeated Fatah’s security forces in Gaza and took over uncontested administration of the strip. This was the moment that Palestine became divided in two with rival governments in charge—Hamas in Gaza and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in West Bank—which meant the end of a single, coherent Palestinian leadership that could negotiate with the Israelis.
The political effects of “Hamas’ ousting of Fatah are clear enough”, writes Judis, who then traces the birth of the prevailing narrative of the Fatah-Hamas split.
Washington’s prevailing narrative about that version of the narrative has been “self-serving”, in a book written by Elliott Abrams, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Judis writes that Abrams worked for George W. Bush’s National Security Council, supervising American policy in the Middle East. His book offers the standard line,
charging that Hamas staged a “coup” in Gaza because it feared that “time might bring greater strength for what Hamas saw as Fatah and we saw as the legitimate PA national security forces.” Abrams acknowledges that Hamas leaders might have believed there was “a conspiracy to crush it,” but dismisses the possibility that there actually was one, and that the United States might have played any role in it.
Abrams’ account, Judis writes,
is in marked contrast with the testimony put forth independently by two journalists, Paul McGeough and David Rose, by a former British intelligence official, Alistair Crooke, who had served as a special advisor on the Middle East to the European Union, and by UN Under-Secretary General Alvaro de Soto.
Key parts of this alternative narrative have been confirmed by leaked government documents and contemporary newspaper accounts and by David Wurmser, who was Middle East advisor at the time to Vice President Dick Cheney.
This version of events is considerably more damning about Washington’s role in the events leading up to the Hamas “coup”. According to the alternative narrative, the Bush administration blundered at every turn in its dealings with the Palestinians.
It encouraged an election on the assumption that Abbas and Fatah would win. When Hamas was victorious, it sought to nullify the results and to block a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, even though such a government might have actually become a credible partner in peace negotiations.
And the Bush administration helped arm Fatah’s security forces against Hamas, which stoked the civil war and led to Hamas taking over Gaza. According to this narrative, Hamas was basically right about American intentions.
. .. Abrams’ reputation is tarred by his admission that he withheld documents from Congress during the Iran-Contra investigation. On the other side, Rose published credulous accounts in 2001 linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda.
But I believe that the alternative narrative fits the outward events much better than what Abrams recounts in his book.
The remainder of the Judis article puts these conflicting narratives in the context of contemporary American diplomacy.
It is not a pretty picture, both because of the impact of the Bush and Abrams 2007 record, and because Judis demonstrates what an Israel-U.S. controlled narrative, dutifully reported and maintained by western media, does to hold the western public in bondage to Israel’s grip on public opinion.
Jimmy Carter remains as one of the very few American public figures willing to break with that grip and broker a unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
The fact that Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to meet with an ex-U.S. president, and prevents any of Israel’s leaders with even a courtesy visit with Carter, is but one more sign of Israeli disdain of any and all, who do not embrace Netanyahu’s vision of Israel’s exceptionalism.
Beginning with his meetings in Gaza Thursday, Carter plows ahead, ignoring Netanyahu’s insults, determined to use his abilities to build toward a united Palestinian government.
The picture above, of Jimmy Carter, is from the Middle East Monitor.