Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter traveled to the West Bank, where he met with a leading Hamas politician. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, a request by Mr. Carter to travel to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was rejected by Israeli officials.
Jimmy Carter continued his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, traveling to the West Bank city of Ramallah where he placed a wreath on the grave of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and met with current Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Mr. Carter also met with Naser al-Shaer, who served as a deputy prime minister in the Palestinian government that was formed after Hamas won legislative elections in 2006. The former U.S. president plans to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal later this week when he travels to Syria, a move he defended following his talks in Ramallah.
"I am going to try everything I can to get him [Meshaal] to agree to a peaceful resolution of differences, both with the Israelis through Gaza, and also with Fatah," Mr. Carter said. "But, I am not a negotiator. I am just trying to understand different opinions and provide communications between people who will not communicate with each other."
With the exception of a brief visit with Israel's ceremonial head of state, President Shimon Peres, who criticized Mr. Carter's trip, the former U.S. president has been shunned by Israeli officials who reject his call to negotiate with Hamas, and object to his characterization of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank as "apartheid."
A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry says Israel cannot understand how Mr. Carter's planned talks with the leader of Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, can help the cause of peace. U.S. officials have also expressed displeasure with Mr. Carter's trip, but say he is a private citizen and does not represent the U.S. government.
In a further sign of their disapproval of his visit, Israeli officials have also refused to provide security for Mr. Carter during his stay. And the former U.S. president says they have rejected his request to visit the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.