Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has announced that its leadership has refused former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s request for a meeting. According to PIJ’s QudsNews website, Egyptian authorities contacted PIJ Secretary-General Dr. Ramadan Shallah on Carter’s behalf earlier this week, inviting Shallah to meet with Carter in Cairo. Shallah is listed on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, and the reward for information leading to his apprehension is $5 million. In turning down the request, Shallah declared that Carter is “carrying an American-Israeli agenda,” while PIJ spokesman Daoud Shahab blasted Carter’s criticism of Palestinian rocket attacks during the former president’s visit to Sderot. E-mails and phone calls to the Carter Center press office seeking confirmation of Carter’s outreach to PIJ have not been returned.
This news should finally shatter Carter’s credibility as a peacemaker. Of course, Carter’s decision to meet Hamas leader Khalid Meshal had already sullied his Nobel reputation, with his posse of former laureates canceling their plans to visit the Middle East with him in response. Earlier today, Carter’s credibility sank even further, when CNN reported that Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Seyam-two of Hamas’ most radical leaders-would convene with Carter in Cairo.
Yet Carter’s attempt to meet with PIJ is his most disturbing gambit to date. After all, PIJ is generally considered even more extreme than Hamas. While PIJ shares many of Hamas’ militant features–including its coordination of terrorist activities, calls for Israel’s destruction, and theocratic aims–PIJ lacks Hamas’ social and political significance. It does not have the social welfare network on which Hamas has built its popularity, while PIJ’s refusal to participate in the 2006 parliamentary elections points to its minimal public authority among Palestinians. Carter is therefore unable to argue that PIJ is somehow central to any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is the very argument he has used to defend his meetings with Hamas officials.