FormerPresidentof theUnited States,Jimmy Cartermet withNasser al-Shaeron Tuesday. Shaer is a formereducation ministerand a former Deputy Prime Minister of thePalestinian National Authority. He is considered a high-ranking member ofHamas.
During a visit to theWest Bank, Carter laid a wreath upon the grave site ofYasser ArafatinRamallah. Carter then met with Shaer, whom he greeted with a hug and kisses to both cheeks, according to a member of Carter's delegation.
Shaer told Reuters that he and Carter had a face-to-face meeting and that they discussed brokering an unofficial truce betweenIsraelandPalestinianmilitants in theGaza Strip. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June of 2007. Carter's office has declined to comment on the closed meeting.
"Carter asked what he can do to achieve peace between the Palestinians and Israel ... and I told him the possibility for peace is high," Shaer said.
Carter told reporters that he wanted to go to the Gaza Strip, but was not allowed. Reuters reports that Israel, citing a member of Carter's delegation, denied the visit.
"I haven't been able to get permission to go into Gaza. I would like to. I asked for permission. But I was turned down. But maybe we can find a way to circumvent that," Carter said.
U.S. and Israeli officials have both expressed disapproval of Carter's visit. Both countries have sought to marginalize Hamas, while they try to negotiate a peace withMahmoud Abbas, thePrime Minister of the Palestinian National Authoritywho hails from theFatahparty. They see Carter's mission as counterproductive to their efforts.
Carter "in effect is undermining a current policy which is not just American but held by many others," saidU.S. RepresentativeHoward Bermanto theAssociated Press. Berman is the chairperson for theCommittee on Foreign Affairs.
Friday, Carter is scheduled to meet inDamascus,SyriawithKhaled Mashal, who is considered the political leader of Hamas and is the head of its Syrian branch.
Yigal Palmor, an official with the Israeli Foreign Ministry said, "The official Hamas position until this day is that it won't negotiate with Israel or recognize it under any circumstance ... Jimmy Carter has dignified this position with his presence, and one cannot but wonder how this attitude is supposed to promote peace and understanding."
"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," Jimmy Carter told reporters in Ramallah.
"Jimmy Carter's view of the forces at work in the Middle East and how he likes to attribute blame and responsibility is so warped to my way of thinking that I'm skeptical of any initiative he undertakes," said Howard Berman.
While in Israel, Carter met with IsraeliPresidentShimon Peres, who criticized the planned meeting with Mashal.Ehud Olmert, thePrime Minister of Israeldid not receive Carter.