Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter discussed details of a prisoner-swap plan with Hamas leaders during a just-concluded visit to the region, according to the head of the Carter Center Office in Ramallah, Timothy Rothermel.
There was apparently disagreement between Hamas and Carter on this – and not only on Carter’s proposal for a 30-day unilateral Hamas ceasefire.
Carter apparently put forth a new list of Palestinian detainees to be exchanged, according to Rothermel, for IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been detained somewhere in Gaza since June 2006.
Carter’s list, which Rothermel said Carter drew up himself, included members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and of the former National Unity Government who are in prison, as well as women and children.
But, Rothermel said, Hamas leaders did not agree on Carter’s list, “because they had been working with their own list for quite some time”. According to Rothermel, Carter “said he could try to understand it, as there had already been commitments to other people and families”.
Carter also asserted, in his comments to Channel 10 television, that Shalit is well, and that there are plans to transfer Shalit to Egypt, “where he’ll certainly be safe and maybe visited by his parents”, Carter said, as soon as “the first phase of the prisoner exchange is fulfilled”.
Negotiations over Shalit’s release have been prolonged, and complicated.
Shalit was seized near the Kerem Shalom crossing where the south-eastern corner of
Gershon Baskin, Co-CEO [with Palestinian editor Hanna Siniora] of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), wrote about the negotiations with Hamas in the Jerusalem Post on Monday that “There is a package deal on the table. In the first stage
Baskin gave some details – including of his own involvement in the negotiations: “Although kidnapped by what are apparently three separate groups, Hamas has been charged with the negotiations, pretty much since the beginning of the negotiating process. Hamas issued its demands very soon after the abduction of Schalit. The only compromise that Hamas has shown since that time concerns the release of information on his welfare and actual proof that Gilad is alive and well. Initially Hamas demanded the release of all Palestinian women and minors in Israeli prisons, numbering some 450, in exchange for information … On September 9, 2006, 75 days after his abduction, a hand-written letter from Gilad finally reached the hands of the Egyptian mediators who at that time were still based in Gaza. Hamas was led to understand that there would be some kind of confidence-building measure undertaken by
Baskin added: “In my assessment, Hamas will not release Schalit without a cease-fire agreement. They perceive Schalit to be the life insurance policy that they are holding for the Hamas leaders in
Carter’s trip was put together rather quickly, Rothermel suggested. It had originally been planned that Carter would travel with two other members of “The Elders”, a group formed by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela on his 80th birthday in 2007, including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson (herself a former President of Ireland). However, apparently because
Rothermel worked with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for 25 years, before retiring from a post in
Rothermel returned in March on behalf of the
Asked if Carter had met Fatah leaders while in the region, Rothermel said he had met a number of personalities while in Ramallah, including some affiliated with Fatah, some with Hamas, and some independent.
“He would have had extensive consultations with President Abbas, but Abbas was not here”, Rothermel said. “My guess is that there will be some contact when Abbas is in
In the meanwhile, Rothermel said, Carter met on April 15 with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and had a “debriefing” with Fayyad again on Monday morning.
They discussed the formation of a government of National Conciliation which would contain only persons acceptable to both Fatah and Hamas, and which would have a unified security service.
Rothermel noted that when he was with UNDP, Fayyad was at the International Monetary Fund, and “we were friends. I respect him”, Rothermel said – though he declined to give any evaluation of Fayyad’s government.
Although Carter was denied Israeli permission to go to
Rothermel said he had to walk in through the Erez crossing, which he said did not bother him as much as what he saw in
Apparently because of his position that Hamas should be included in the present post-Annapolis peace negotiations, and his intention to meet Hamas leaders, Carter was boycotted by most members of the Israeli government during this trip. Rothermel said that Carter commented, “It’s the first time in 30 years that none of my security has been provided by the Israeli government”. (Rothermel did say that he noticed Israeli police cars accompanied Carter on some of his movements in
But, Rothermel said, Carter was very warmly welcomed by the president of the Israeli Council on Foreign Affairs, David Kincaid, at a meeting on Monday. Introducing Carter, Kincaid said that “What President Carter brokered in