Jimmy Carter during a visit to Sderot called Palestinian rocket attacks on civilians a “despicable crime.”
“I think it’s a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians, and my hope is there will be a cease-fire soon,” Carter told reporters Monday in the beleaguered southern Israeli town on the Gaza Strip border.
The former U.S. president is in Israel as part of a Middle East tour.
On Sunday, his first day in the Jewish state, Carter met with President Shimon Peres, who told his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner that he has damaged Israel and the peace process. Carter has been sharply critical of Israel on its Middle East stance, notably in his recent book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
During the meeting, Peres also criticized Carter’s decision to meet later in the week with the exiled leader of Hamas. Leaders in Washington and Jerusalem reacted with outrage last week to reports that Carter planned to meet with Khaled Meshaal, who lives in Damascus.
Carter has defended his controversial decision to meet Meshaal while in Syria.
“It’s very important that at least someone meet with the Hamas leaders to express their views, to ascertain what flexibility they have, to try to induce them to stop all attacks against innocent civilians in Israel and to cooperate with the Fatah as a group that unites the Palestinians,” Carter said in an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” on ABC aired Sunday morning.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both declined to meet Carter, citing “scheduling conflicts.”
Ha’aretz reported Monday that Israel’s Shin Bet security service has declined to assist Carter during his visit, calling it an “unprecedented” breach between the Shin Bet and the U.S. Secret Service.