Oh - and when the article says "embraced," it means just that. The former president gave Nasser Shaer, a leading Hamas figure, a hug. Of course, hugging Hamas is just one of those things that would come naturally to a buffoon like Carter, but the Israelis don't see it as a sweet moment. They're kind of ticked. The AP tried to help out Carter all they could, saying that hugs between men were commonplace in the Arab world -- but I'm not thinking that too many people are going to buy that this hug was a cultural nicety. Especially since Shaer told the AP, "He gave me a hug. We hugged each other, and it was a warm reception. Carter asked what he can do to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel... and I told him the possibility for peace is high."
On top of that Carter laid a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat. Bestowing hugs and postmortem honor on people who are evil? No biggie -- because in Carter's little world, the Israelis are to blame for the world's troubles. After all, if they weren't trying to keep a little place called "Israel" as their own, nobody would hate them so much. Carter has written a book likening the Israel/Palestinian relationship to Apartheid, with Israel (of course) being the big bad white guy.
Israel and the West Bank are only the first stops on a visit that will extend to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Syria (where Hamas is headquartered). Hamas is an Islamic jihadist group that is responsible for the deaths of some 250 Israelis via suicide bombings. To say that Hamas is "anti-Israel" is probably a bit of an understatement... but Carter is urging both Israel and the White House to "stop isolating them." According to Carter, this is because "Since Syria and Hamas will have to be involved in a final peace agreement, they have to be involved in discussions that lead to final peace."
The United States government has asked Carter to knock it off (but probably worded it a bit more diplomatically than I), but he continues to traipse around the globe acting as if the US government backs him.
To make matters worse, Carter's visit is offering a certain amount of legitimacy to Hamas and therefore is undermining the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip last year -- the Palestinians are even fighting amongst themselves.
Of course, proving that journalists everywhere are milk-toast weasels, the Haaretz newspaper in Israel criticized their own government for offering such a cool reception to Carter. According to that paper, "Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world." Well... Jimmy Carter may have good intentions, but his lack of wisdom is astounding. If I decide I want to teach a child to swim and my method is to not allow them out of the water -- and they end up drowning - I don't deserve a medal for my efforts. No matter how good my intentions were in trying to teach them to swim, I did such a lousy job that I caused their death. A cool reception would be too good for me.
Carter has offered to serve as a conduit between Hamas and the US and Israel, although he acknowledges he has "no authority at all." According to him, "I'm not a negotiator. I'm just trying to understand different opinions and provide communication between people." Uh-huh. Try understanding your own country's opinion and keep your nose out of it then! It is the opinion of the United States that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Frankly, this runs more to fact than opinion, but I'm giving ole Jimmy the benefit of the doubt here...
And another funny little tidbit... Carter's office was complaining that a request for security provided by Israel has not been met. Israel said no request was made. And then - aha! - Steward Tuttle, the spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, said the embassy never relayed a request for protection because Carter was on a private visit. Carter can't seem to take the hint, though... he's determined to use his "no authority at all" to protract a peace agreement between Hamas (who states that they can live alongside Israel but that Israel has no right to exist) and Israel (who says that Hamas is a terrorist group and they will not negotiate with terrorists). Hmmm... I'm thinkin' it might take more than "no authority at all" to get that job done. It will take an act of God Himself.