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Israel has no justification to bomb civilians in Gaza: Jimmy Carter
The fomer US President says creation of Palestinian state only solution for lasting peace; urges US, Western powers to recognise Hamas
Thursday August 7, 2014 6:32 PM , Agencies

Former U.S. president and international peace activist Jimmy Carter co-authored an op-ed condemning Israel's military actions in Gaza as war crimes and urging the United States to recognize Hamas as a legitimate political force.

Jimmy Carter
[Writing in the Washington Post during 2009's Operation Cast Lead - in which over 1400 Palestinians were killed - Carter advocated a similar outline for stability in Israel/Palestine. (Photo: White House) ]

The 39th President said that the Palestinian group, which America defines as a terrorist organisation, cannot be "wished away" in an article he co-wrote with the former Irish president Mary Robinson for Foreign Policy magazine.

“There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defence Forces are conducting this war,” Carter and Robinson wrote.

"Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it co-operate in its own demise," they continued.

"Only by recognising its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons.”

Published at the start of the 72-hour ceasefire, which momentarily halted four weeks of conflict between Israel and the Hamas-governed Gaza on on Tuesday, the article goes on to accuse the Israeli government of failing to achieve peace in the region by disallowing Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to form a unity government.

"These requirements for a human standard of life continue to be denied," they write.

Carter and Robinson propose that "The initial goal should be the full restoration of free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through Israel, Egypt and the sea," but how to accomplish that goal is another matter.

The Elders cite the need for international judicial proceedings and urge the UN Security Council to "vote a resolution recognizing the inhumane conditions in Gaza and mandate an end to the siege."

They also note that the Swiss government, at the Palestinians request, is considering calling for a Geneva convention, which "could pressure Israel and Hamas into observing their duty to protect civilian populations under international law."

All of the steps suggested are what might be expected from the Elders call for peace, but the novel portion of Carter and Robinson's op-ed is in their urging the U.S. and the world to "recognise that Hamas is not just a military force but also a political one."

According to Carter and Robinson, "Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor – one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people – can the west begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons."

"Ultimately, however, lasting peace depends on the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel," they added.

The Elders concluded Gaza Blockade Must End hopefully with the message that "Leaders in Israel, Palestine and the world's major powers should believe that these policy changes are within their reach and would move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a day when the skies over the Holy Land can forever fall silent."

So far, over 1600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's latest assault on Gaza, with over 8,000 injured. At time of press, 105 Israelis - including 90 soldiers - had been killed.

He asserted that the most important factor now was for Gaza’s isolation to be ended and for recent efforts at restoring unity in the Palestinian Authority to be supported.

“The international community must use the ceasefire agreement as an opportunity to advance the reunification of Palestine if there is to be sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

“The agreement must include implementation and international monitoring mechanisms.”

Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, criticised Israel's continued occupation of territory in the West Bank and Gaza and outlined his views on how to achieve a just peace in the region.

His use of the “apartheid” term, often used by advocates of a one-state solution or binational state in the region, provoked criticism, with Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, accusing Carter of "engaging in anti-Semitism" although Carter emphasised his use of the term did not apply to the internationally recognised State of Israel, but solely to the situation in the occupied territories.

Current US President Barack Obama - a fellow Democrat who has been compared to Jimmy Carter as both a compliment and an insult - has repeatedly asserted that Israel "has the right to defend itself" while also condemning the mounting civilian death toll.

“We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian and civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives,” Obama said said on Monday. “That is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends that fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Carter has been seen as a longtime advocate of peace in the region.

In 1978, while President of the United States, Jimmy Carter was responsible for mediating the Camp David accords between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which eventually led to the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979, the first recognition of Israel by any Arab state.

Writing in the Washington Post during 2009's Operation Cast Lead - in which over 1400 Palestinians were killed - he advocated a similar outline for stability in Israel/Palestine.

"The hope is that when further hostilities are no longer productive, Israel, Hamas and the United States will accept another ceasefire, at which time the rockets will again stop and an adequate level of humanitarian supplies will be permitted to the surviving Palestinians, with the publicized agreement monitored by the international community," he wrote.

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