Jimmy Carter has generated a lot of controversy by declaring his intention to meet with Hamas on a trip to the Middle East. Israel will stoke the fires even further by refusing to provide Carter with the security normally provided for current and former American presidents. In fact, Carter will get no cooperation at all from the Shin Bet in his travels through Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank:
Israel’s secret service has declined to assist U.S. agents guarding former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a visit in which Israeli leaders have shunned him, U.S. sources close to the matter said on Monday.
Carter angered the Israeli government with plans to meet Hamas’s top leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Syria, and for describing Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories as “a system of apartheid” in a 2006 book.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who brokered Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab neighbor, Egypt, signed in 1979, met Israel’s largely ceremonial president, Shimon Peres, on Sunday but was shunned by the political leadership, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Israel has also rejected Carter’s request to meet jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouthi, who is seen as a possible successor to President Mahmoud Abbas, a spokesman for Carter said.
The unprecedented breach, as Reuters reports it, means that the Secret Service will face more danger with less intelligence than on any other trip to the region. That will be especially problematic in Sderot, which Carter intends to visit. Khaled Meshaal’s nutcase followers rain rockets into Sderot on a regular basis, and with Carter’s visit so well publicized, they could either cease as a gesture of goodwill for Carter’s upcoming visit — or they could choose to make headlines around the world by killing Carter.
It gives the State Department a little more leverage about Carter’s trip. They could use the danger into which Carter would lead the Secret Service as a means to ask the Department of Homeland Security to refuse to allow them to accompany Carter. Carter could choose to go without the Secret Service, but without Israeli security, it would present a huge risk — and if he did go and got killed, it would be an explosive issue for the Bush administration.
Quite frankly, although I understand the Israeli’s action, I think it sets a bad precedent. Cooperation in security should not be predicated on agreement of political policies. Jimmy Carter may be the worst ex-president in American history, but he is still our ex-president, and the Secret Service detail that accompanies him deserves Israeli cooperation. The snub from the political class is well-deserved, but the Israelis should consider how Americans will view them if their refusal to cooperate on security leads to American deaths on this trip./