WASHINGTON—Former US President Jimmy Carter is coming under much criticism from Israel and its supporters for expressing his desire to meet with Hamas officials during his Middle East tour this week. One would think that by now, 60 years into the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a stack of wars later, most people would come to realise that there can be no military solution to the crisis. Only a negotiated settlement will put an end to the decades fighting and bloodshed.
It is worth remembering that it was Carter who laid the cornerstone to peace in the Middle East when he brought together Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menahem Begin at the presidential retreat at Camp David, extracting a peace treaty from Egypt and Israel—a peace treaty, imperfect as it might be, but which is still in effect today. And had Egypt not paved the way and entered into a peace treaty with Israel, Jordan would have never been able to follow suit, becoming the second Arab country to recognise Israel and exchange diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
In fact, had it not been for Jimmy Carter's initiative to push for peace between the Arabs and Israelis, yesterday's visit by Israel's Foreign Minister Tippi Livni to the Gulf state of Qatar would have never been possible. Just as a peace treaty and exchange of diplomatic relations with Mauritania, the third Arab country to officially recognise Israel, would have never been possible.
As much as former President Carter is disliked in Israel for the manner in which he views the Arab-Israeli dispute, it is important to stress the fact that both Arabs and Israelis owe much to the man, who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to promote peace in a region that has been plagued by never-ending strife and violence.
It is also worth noting that one is forced to negotiate with one's enemies when seeking peace. Throughout the six decades of conflict in the Middle East, violence has only bred more violence and has never been the solution to the problem. A quick scan through the history books will prove the point. The June 1967 Six-Day war gave birth to the Palestinian resistance movement. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon propelled the creation of Hezbollah. And the continuing unrest in the West Bank and Gaza gave rise to Hamas.
Clearly, the longer the crisis continues to simmer, the more complex it becomes. Hard as it may be to comprehend or accept Jimmy Carter's initiative, to engage Hamas in talks should be encouraged, if not welcomed. War has never been the answer; let's give peace – and Jimmy Carter – a chance.
This article is an editorial by Middle East Times. It is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be accessed at GCNews.