Terrorists, Shmerrorists: I'm Here for Peace!Former President Jimmy Carter is in Syria today, meeting with a terrorist leader, presumably in the interests of a lasting peace in the Middle East.
A fine sentiment. And, I think, an achievable goal. Eventually. But not by making nice to terrorists.
Lately, I've found myself agreeing with people that I generally don't. Connecticut's Senator Joseph Lieberman joined the list yesterday. As Newsmax.com put it,
" Lieberman told Fox News on Thursday that 'at best, President Carter is being naive' for reaching out to a group directly linked to terrorism.
" 'There is a long list of people who thought they could reason with dictators and killers, going back to Neville Chamberlain and Hitler in the 1930s, but it has been shown to be absolutely wrong,' Lieberman said."
Attacking Neville Chamberlain after the effects of his "peace for our time" became obvious may be a sort of Monday morning quarterbacking. I think it's possible that Mr. Chamberlain was a well-intentioned, optimistic man who didn't understand what he was dealing with.
I think that Mr. Carter may have some of the same qualities.
There are differences, of course.
- Mr. Chamberlain was an official representative of a government, sent by that government to negotiate
- Mr. Carter has been asked by several sectors of the American government to not do what he's doing with Hamas
- Hitler's Germany did not, at the time of Chamberlain's meeting, have a decades-long track record of unwanted behavior
- Hamas does
The Israeli minister has a noble goal: freeing a prisoner or two. As the International Herald Tribune put it, "Cabinet Minister Eli Yishai says Friday that he asked former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to tell Hamas he wants to talk to the militant group. Yishai wants to win the release of a captured Israeli soldier. The minister says he wouldn't discuss a Israel-Gaza fighting so as not to go against a government ban on negotiating with Hamas."
I sympathize with cabinet minister Eli Yishai, but I think that Israel's prime minister has the right idea. Again, from the International Herald Tribune, "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he did not meet Carter so as not to create the impression that he was negotiating with the Islamic militants. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group."
Thanks to Eli Yishai's gesture, though, I think that this is what we'll be told about the Carter-Meshaal meeting: "Israel negotiating with Hamas through Carter" (Ya Libnan (April 18, 2008)). (I recommend the Ya Libnan post, for a more-than-usually detailed look at the Carter-Meshaal-Yishai-Hamas-Israel matter.)
Nevile Chamberlain's name has come up from time to time, in the context of imprudent negotiations and concessions involving terrorists. I do think that Former President Jimmy Carter's un-negotiations with terrorists permits - even encourages - a comparison between the wisdom of Carter and Chamberlain.
When I heard about the Israeli cabinet minister and Carter, I thought we might have another parallel between a prominent individual from the WWII era and someone in current events.
Actions Make a Difference: So Do MotivesI was relieved to read more about Cabinet Minister Eli Yishai and his communications with Hamas. Ya Libnan quoted him in the post I cited before: " 'I am ready to meet with all necessary Hamas members and with Shalit's captors, and I would be pleased if you can help,' Yishai told Carter at their meeting on Monday. 'I am volunteering myself for the task, and I ask you to convey a message: They also have prisoners and I am sure they want to see them released, and therefore it is proper to expedite the negotiations.' "
However, "Yishai opposes negotiating with the Palestinian leadership, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, over a permanent-status arrangement, especially regarding Jerusalem."
Cabinet Minister Yishai seems to have some understanding of Israel's position, and concern for Israel's integrity.
That's a relief. Hearing that an Israeli official wanted to talk with terrorists whose policy is to obliterate Israel, I considered the possibility that we were looking at someone who was making personal arrangements with what he thought might be the winning side.
Flexibility and Treason: There's DifferenceWhen I heard that an Israeli official was slipping a message to Hamas via Carter, I immediately thought of a prominent individual from the World War II era. As Germany, led by their new Chancellor and his party, took over management of European nations which it saw as insufficiently Aryan, some people decided to adapt to what they probably thought was the new big power.
In Norway, a man who admired Chancellor Hitler and his policies had pointed out the advantages of assuming control of Norway. After Germany added Norway to it's holdings, this man made himself Norway's leader, and told Norway's armed forces to stop resisting the Germans.
Although I generally approve of flexibility and adaptability in leaders, I think that this man made the wrong decisions. And I'm not alone. Instead of receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about a swift end of the war in Norway, this man was tried and executed, after the Norwegian resistance and the Allies ended WWII.
This man did, however, receive a sort of recognition for his efforts. His surname is now synonymous with "traitor" in some circles: Vidkum Quisling.
Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.