Israel Mixed over Carter's Visit

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - Former US President Jimmy Carter's upcoming visit with Hamas terror chief Khaled Mashaal received mixed reviews among government officials.

While Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said he would not meet with Carter, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor), Minister of Industry and Trade Eli Yishai (Shas) and Member of Knesset (MK) Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) will meet with the former US president.

After his Sunday afternoon arrival, Carter will meet with Peres that evening. A spokesman for the Israeli president cited their "shared past" and Peres' admiration for Carter's role in advancing peace between Egypt and Israel for the meeting.

Monday's itinerary include a visit to Sderot, a meeting with Barak and a speech at an event sponsored by the left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz.

Tuesday, Carter is off to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues.

Before departing for Damascus to meet with the exiled Hamas leader, Carter will share his views with Yishai and Lieberman.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni blamed conflicting schedules for not meeting with the former president.

The US State Department said it informed Carter of its opposition to his meeting with Mashaal.

"We counseled against it," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormick.

"US government policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and we don't believe it is in the interest of our policy or in the interest of peace to have such a meeting," he said.

Carter's wife, Rosalynn Carter, and former congressman Stephen J. Solarz (D-NY) will accompany him on the nine-day tour, which includes visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in addition to Israel and Syria.

"This is a study mission and our purpose is not to negotiate but to support and provide momentum for current efforts to secure peace in the Middle East," read a statement from the Carter Center.

According to a Reuters report, Carter hoped to persuade former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela to join him, but both declined, citing poor timing.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, Reuters

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