Hamas turned down direct negotiations


Hamas turned down two offers of direct negotiations with Israel, JTA has learned.

The offers were made during meetings last month between former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and leaders of the terrorist organization, sources told JTA.

Prior to the meetings in Damascus, Carter had met in Israel with Eli Yishai, the Shas Party leader and trade and industry minister, and Yossi Beilin, a Knesset member in the opposition Meretz Party.

Yishai asked Carter to ask Hamas officials to open direct talks on a prisoner exchange that would free Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid two years ago. Beilin asked him to propose that Hamas open direct “track two” negotiations between civil society leaders as a way of facilitating peace talks.
Hamas officials turned down both proposals, saying they preferred Egypt’s mediation in the Shalit affair and did not trust Israel in other issues because of what they termed past peace process failures.

Carter was shunned by most Israeli leaders because of his plans to reach out to the terrorist group in a bid to end violence on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas. Israel, the United States and much of the West shun direct negotiations with Hamas until it renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel.

The briefing for JTA and other news agencies on the Carter trip was organized by the Israel Policy Forum for informational purposes. The IPF did not endorse the trip.

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