As former President Jimmy Carter tours the Middle East, his plans to meet terrorist leaders have met with increasing criticism from authorities within the United States, including a senior U.S. Representative requesting Carter's passport be revoked by the State Department.
On Tuesday, Carter physically embraced senior Hamas official Nasser Shaer, a former Deputy Prime Minister in the Hamas government, at a meeting in Ramallah. Additionally, Carter has voiced his plans to meet with the Hamas' top leadership, including Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, in Cairo and Hamas Supreme Commander Khaled Meshaal in Damascus.
The Associated Press has reported that Hamas views Carter's latest outreach as legitimizing the terrorist group:
Heading the Hamas delegation in Cairo were Gaza leaders Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siyam. "This meeting is a message to those who don't recognize Hamas' legitimacy as a movement," Zahar said as he left for Egypt, according to Hamas' Web site.
In Cairo, Hamas spokesman Taher Nuhu told The Associated Press that the purported Thursday meeting would be "a recognition of the legitimacy" of Hamas' victory in the Palestinians' parliamentary election in 2006.
Many U.S. government officials agree, and the State Department has publicly stated that they oppose Carter's visit. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week, "U.S. policy is that Hamas is a terrorist organization; we don't believe it's in the interest of our policy or in the interest of peace to have such a meeting."
Carter has even attempted to orchestrate meetings with officials of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another violent Palestinian terrorist organization, which so far have rebuffed Carter's efforts.
In response to Carter's attempts at "terrorist diplomacy," Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC), called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to revoke Carter's passport. Of Carter, Myrick stated, "Former President Carter has acted in contradiction of international agreements to isolate Hamas. He has acted in defiance of both United States policy and international policy. His actions reward terrorists, lend support, and provide legitimacy to their belief that violence will eventually get them what they want."
Myrick said that, by law, the Secretary of State has the right to revoke passports, and Carter's behavior of consorting with hardened terrorist leaders has merited such a penalty.
In another development, yesterday Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) called for Jimmy Carter's Atlanta-based Carter Center to lose its federal funding. The Center has received over $19 million in federal funds since 2001.