Saturday, April 26, 2008

We should trust only ourselves

From DEBKAfile, April 25, 2008, 7:37 PM (GMT+02:00)

Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy
Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedy tells CBCNews 60 Minutes Bob Simon that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel must be taken extremely seriously. In an interview to be aired Sunday, April 27, the general said: “I think it is a very serious threat to the state of Israel, but more than this, to the whole world. They are talking about what destroying and wiping us from the earth.”

He said it reminds him of the Holocaust. “We should remember. We cannot forget, We should trust only ourselves.”

Gen. Shkedy likened ignoring Ahmadinejad today to the atmosphere that enabled the Holocaust yesterday. “In those days, people didn’t believe Hitler was serious about what he said. I suggest we do not repeat this way of thinking and… prepare ourselves for everything.”

Veterans of the 1981 Israeli mission which destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor told the CBS interviewer: “Israelis hope they won’t have to undertake such a mission today, but a bombing mission to Iran… is a different thing.

Zeev Raz, commander of that mission, compared the situations to Simon: “We had one point to destroy. They have many points, many of them deep under the mountains… underground and it’s a much more complicated problem than in 1981. I hope it will be solved another way.”
Raz commented: “The only thing worse than the Israeli air force having to do it – Iran having a nuclear bomb.”

Col. Ziv Levy, an air force base commander said: “We spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in training and being prepared for the worst. We cannot lose a single war. The first war we lose, Israel will cease to exist,” said Col. Levy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Khaled Meshaal’s chef de bureau killed [Baruch Hashem]

An ANZAC Day gift, from DEBKAfile, April 25, 2008, 12:20 PM (GMT+02:00):

Closest aide of Hamas hard-line Khaled Meshaal dies in suspicious "accident"

... Hisham Faiz Abu Libda, Khaled Meshaal’s chef de bureau, was killed in Damascus by a hit-and-run car. Syrian authorities have ordered a blackout on the incident. His was the second mysterious death of a high-profile terrorist in the Syrian capital in recent weeks after Hizballah’s military chief Imad Mughniyeh was blown up in a high-security district on Feb. 13.

His boss was in Doha at the time, closeted with the emir of Qatar.

...Abu Labda’s death the day after the Syria’s North Korean nuclear reactor and its destruction by Israeli raiders were exposed in Washington, will serve as a warning to Damascus. It is Bashar Assad’s second reminder that his undercover agencies are seriously penetrated.

Abu Libda organized Meshaal’s contacts with Hamas operations chiefs in Gaza and other places and his regular meetings with Syrian and Iranian officials.

... Assad has decided not to publish the findings of the inquiry into Mughniyeh’s death.

Carter 'a bigot'

From Ynet News, 25/4/08, by Associated Press:

Gillerman calls Carter 'a bigot'

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations called former President Jimmy Carter "a bigot" for meeting with the leader of the militant Hamas movement in Syria.

Carter..."went to the region with soiled hands and came back with bloody hands after shaking the hand of Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas," Ambassador Dan Gillerman told reporters at a luncheon briefing Thursday.

...The ambassador's harsh words for Carter came days after the ex-president met with Mashaal for seven hours in Damascus to negotiate a cease-fire with Gaza's Hamas rulers. Carter then called Mashaal on Monday to try to get him to agree to a one-month truce without conditions, but the Hamas leader rejected the idea.

The ambassador called last weekend's encounter "a very sad episode in American history." He said it was "a shame" to see Carter..."turn into what I believe to be a bigot." ....During Carter's visit, Gillerman said, Hamas "was shelling our cities and maiming and injuring and wounding Israeli babies and Israeli children."

The ambassador noted that Hamas is armed and trained by Iran, whose president once called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." "The real danger, the real problem is not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the real threat is Iran," he said....

...."Basically, Syria and Iran, together with Hamas and Hezbollah, are the main axes of terror and evil in the world," the Israeli ambassador said.

Two Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists near Tulkarm

From Apr 25, 2008b, y JPOST.COM STAFF:

Two Israelis were killed Friday morning when Palestinian terrorists opened fire at them in the Nitzane Shalom industrial complex near Tulkarm.

...The gunmen had initially intended to infiltrate Israel but returned to the industrial complex after they were unable to penetrate the security barrier, Army Radio reported.

The two men, in their 50s, were declared dead by an MDA team that was called to the area. They were security guards at one of the factories...

....The Nitzane Shalom complex was built in 1995. It houses nine factories that provide jobs to many Palestinians from the West Bank.

..and from Ynet News by Raanan Ben-Zur*, 25/4/08:

...The al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing, claimed responsibility for the attack. A senior organization source in the West Bank told Ynet that the attack was carried out by a wanted Palestinian who had escaped from a Palestinian Authority prison several days ago....

...Ben Zion Gashuri, one of the industrial zone's entrepreneurs, ...explained that a large group of Palestinians entered the area with the Shin Bet's approval, and that the terrorist was among a second group.

Pointing the finger at the IDF, Gashuri said, "Every day some 600 Palestinians come to work here. We have excellent relations with the employees and we provide them with work. This is a failure – someone has forgotten that there are other Palestinians near us."

The "Nitzanei Shalom" industrial zone, where the attack took place, is located near the separation fence, not far from Tulkarem....

*Efrat Weiss and Ali Waked contributed to this report

North Korean Links to Syrian Reactor proven

From The New York Times, by DAVID E. SANGER, April 24, 2008:

WASHINGTON — After seven months of near-total secrecy, the White House is preparing to make public on Thursday video evidence of North Koreans working at a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor just before it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike last September.

A satellite image shows a suspected nuclear reactor in Syria before Israel destroyed it last year.

DigitalGlobe, via Associated Press

Christopher R. Hill, the top American negotiator in nuclear talks with North Korea.

Oded Balilty/Associated Press

Until now, the administration has refused to discuss the video or the attack, other than in a highly classified briefing for a few allies and crucial members of Congress.

But senior officials in Israel and the United States have said the target was a nascent nuclear reactor that had been under construction for years. Israeli and American analysts had concluded that it was loosely modeled on the reactor North Korea used to obtain the fuel for its small nuclear weapons arsenal.

Israeli jets destroyed the site on Sept. 6, and the Syrians, after issuing some protests, bulldozed the area and constructed a building on the exact footprint of the old one. They have refused to allow international nuclear inspectors to visit the location. was possible that the revelations would force the North Koreans to describe their actions in Syria more fully when they issued a long delayed declaration of their nuclear activities.
That proposed deal, negotiated by Christopher R. Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and the primary interlocutor with North Korea, has become the latest battleground in a seven-year struggle within the Bush administration over North Korea policy.

That policy has veered from efforts to squeeze North Korea in hopes that the government of Kim Jong-il will collapse, to negotiating with the country alongside Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, each of which has pursued a somewhat different approach toward the North.

Mr. Hill was put in charge of the talks more than three years ago in the hope of finding a new way to deal with the North Koreans. ....

...Mr. Cheney’s office and other conservatives have argued that Mr. Hill’s proposed deal would amount to a huge concession. In return for a minimal declaration from North Korea — an accounting of how much plutonium it has produced — it would be removed from the terrorism list and would no longer be subject to economic sanctions under the Trading With the Enemy Act.

North Korea has refused to say what, exactly, it provided to the Syrians, or what happened to an effort to start a second pathway to building arms, using uranium. The deal would allow the North to continue to fudge on those matters, leaving unexplained the question of why it appeared to be buying uranium enrichment equipment from Pakistan. That equipment, many experts believe, was intended to help North Korea build a second path to a bomb, in case it was forced to give up its plutonium program.

In a presentation on Thursday to crucial members of Congress, and then in a presentation to reporters, American intelligence officials are expected to show images from a video, believed to have been obtained through Israeli intelligence services. The video, which Mr. Hill has shown to senior South Korean officials, shows Korean faces among the workers at the Syrian plant.

Other pictures, officials say, show what appears to be the construction of a reactor vessel inside the building that Israel later destroyed....

Griffith University's misplaced tolerance

From The Australian, by Rachael Kohn, John Cleary and Stephen Crittenden of ABC radio:

IN response to (Griffith University vice-chancellor) Ian O'Connor: (He) seems to be falling into the trap that is sometimes evident among those who wish to advance the cause of tolerance and understanding between religious communities.

In seeking to construct a dialogue, they are blind to profound differences, and in doing so they trivialise them and render the discussion meaningless. For example, O'Connor's equation of Wahhabism and Salafism with Unitarianism is utter nonsense.

Unitarianism emerged as a liberal Christian movement and gained ground in the early years of American democracy. Its foundational beliefs include that man has the ability to exercise free will in a responsible and ethical manner, that human nature in its present conditions is neither inherently corrupt nor depraved, and that no religion can claim a monopoly on the Holy Spirit of theological truth.

These humanist and inclusive beliefs are in no way expressed by the Wahhabist and Salafist versions of Islam. Indeed, the home of Wahhabism and Salafism, Saudi Arabia, not only continues to outlaw conversion to religions other than Islam, it does not even permit public worship of other faiths.

As for its humanist content, Saudi Arabia continues to trample the human rights of women, who are banned from libraries and unable to access work, travel, study and marriage without the approval of their fathers, brothers and sons.

O'Connor's acceptance of Saudi Arabian government funding is premised on an argument that serves the interests of Saudi Arabia, in providing a "legitimate alternative to their country's more conservative policies". One would have to wonder whether O'Connor has unwittingly become a conduit for Saudi Arabian propaganda, and then ask why the Saudi Government does not choose to establish such research institutes in its own country, where they are needed.
It isn't difficult to find the answer, which is that the authoritarian, theocratic state of Saudi Arabia really has no interest in becoming a liberal democracy.

The result of such sloppy thinking is that what is now happening in the West is that the institutions of liberal democracies, such as Griffith University, risk becoming havens for highly conservative imported versions of Islam that really have no place in a country with a religious culture and society shaped by humanist values and the rules of democracy.

I hope that the authors will also critique their own colleagues in the ABC with such clarity!

...also see previous postings on this issue: Griffith University "Foolish -- at best" and Australian University promotes Islamofascism

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The presidential cliffhanger intensifies

From The Australian, Greg Sheridan Blog April 24, 2008:

THE exquisite choreography of the US Democratic presidential primary was maintained at a magnificent pitch in Pennsylvania, with Hillary Clinton beating Barack Obama by the magical 10 percentage points....It’s a cliffhanger moment in a cliffhanger narrative.

... Obama can’t ...carry working-class whites or churchgoers or seniors or gun owners.

Obama wins huge among latte-sipping urban liberals and among African-Americans. Indeed, the Pennsylvania race breaks up revealingly along racial, religious, urban/rural and age lines. A staggering 92 per cent of blacks who voted, voted for Obama. Some 69 per cent of Catholics voted for Clinton, as did a smaller majority of Jewish voters.

Some 61 per cent of seniors were for Clinton, as were 59 per cent of weekly church goers and 58 per cent of gun owners. Clinton also won the rural areas overwhelmingly....

...The other intriguing aspect of Pennsylvania, however, is that it showed the limit of the influence of both the media and paid advertising. Obama outspent Clinton three to one - some $US12 million ($12.7 million) - on TV and radio ads in Pennsylvania. He campaigned in the state full-time for six weeks and continues to get adulatory press coverage. The media has decided that he is their candidate. ....

...When the media treats Obama this way, they are treating him as a celebrity whose manifest kindness, sweetness and lovableness ought not to be contested by any right-thinking person.
There are lots of reasons to be worried about an Obama presidency which have nothing to do with race.

...Obama is the most left-wing member of the US Senate. He has had a long association with, and for many years attended every week, the services of a wildly extreme preacher extolling the most insane and racist conspiracy theories (that the US Government invented AIDS to kill black people).

Obama has a long association with a violent radical of the 1960s. He has a long financial association with a Chicago slumlord now under indictment over racketeering. He deals with racial issues in a fundamentally dishonest way - equating the hate-filled sermons of his preacher with his (white) grandmother’s alleged racial stereotyping. He is the most inexperienced person to have a serious shot at the presidency in many decades.

None of this proves Obama would be a bad president. But they are all issues on which Obama deserves the same brutal scrutiny that any other presidential candidate would get....

Charles Zentai extradition case

From The Australian, by Paige Taylor April 24, 2008:

ACCUSED Nazi-era war criminal Charles Zentai should be tried in Australia, not Hungary, his son Ernie Steiner says.

Mr Zentai yesterday came a step closer to being extradited to Budapest, where he is wanted for the wartime murder of a teenage Jew 63 years ago. ...his family claim he would not receive a fair trial ...“It would be far better for him if he could defend the criminal charge here in Australia, rather than having to go Hungary where he will face a military court,” Mr Steiner told The Australian....

... the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, claims Mr Zentai has nothing to fear if he is innocent. “Hungary is a democracy with a reputable justice system. This is not communist Hungary,” said the SWC's Jerusalem-based director Efraim Zuroff. “It is independent, democratic Hungary which is a member of NATO and the European Union, and it issued the extradition request for Charles Zentai in 2005 based on its assessment of the available evidence.”

Alexander Zahar, former senior legal adviser to the United Nations judiciary in The Hague, waded into the debate yesterday, saying: “There is no reason accused war criminal Charles Zentai would not receive a fair trial in the Hungarian military court if he is extradited. “Hungary has a good human rights record and a sophisticated judiciary,” Dr Zahar said. “Mr Zentai is a fugitive from justice, there is no statute of limitations on his alleged offence, and unless he is really too ill to travel, which is something which will be properly attended to, he should go and face the allegations. “His age and the antiquity of the alleged crime is otherwise not relevant.”

... Mr Zentai is due to face Perth Magistrates Court for an extradition hearing date in August, but that is likely to come sooner since his loss in the High Court yesterday.

If the court decides he is eligible for extradition, Mr Zentai's last avenue will be with the federal Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus. Mr Debus can cancel an extradition on several grounds, including humanitarian.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Griffith University "Foolish -- at best"

From The Australian Editorial, April 23, 2008:

The Saudi Government has bankrolled hardline Islam

QUEENSLAND'S Griffith University ...has been foolish -- at best -- in virtually begging the Saudi Arabian embassy to bankroll its Griffith Islamic Research Unit for $1.3 million. So naive was director Mohamad Abdalla that he wrote to Saudi ambassador Hassan T. Nazer offering to keep the controversial deal secret ...And in a letter dated September 11, 2006, vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor noted Griffith was "rapidly becoming a popular 'university of choice' for students from Saudi Arabia".

....What is disturbing Saudi Arabia's track record of bankrolling radical Islam. When it was launched in 2005, Dr Abdalla, who was born in Libya and lived in Jordan before coming to Australia where he completed his science degree and PhD, said the unit's main aim was "to promote a Wasatiyya or 'moderate' Islam". In offering scholars the chance to study Islam in depth, the unit is a worthwhile academic venture, given the increasing significance of Islam on the world stage.....

...[Griffith Islamic Research Unit ] states one of its aims is "cultivating an informed public opinion that will lead to a more ...pluralistic Australian society". It wants "to bring ...lasting change in our communities". Australians could be forgiven for wondering why it is our society that needs changing when the unit is being partially funded by a nation that espouses hardline Islam, policed by the Mutaween or religious police. Some in the Islamic community fear the funding could skew the unit's approach and create sympathy for an extremist ideology -- Wahabism -- which is widely espoused in Saudi Arabia and by al-Qa'ida.

Unfortunately, the university has not been upfront about the matter, and Queensland District Court judge Clive Wall has every right to raise his concerns. Last year, Ross Homel -- then director of Griffith's key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance -- said the university did not chase money from the embassy and that the $100,000 down payment was offered with "no strings" attached.

Documents obtained by The Australian contradict this, with Professor O'Connor offering the embassy the chance to "discuss ways" in which the money could be used and Griffith staffers speculating about "How do we get extra noughts on this cheque". Such a cap-in-hand approach to a nation that despises all manner of freedom, including academic freedom, does not encourage confidence. The funding of such units should be transparent and any conditions attached to it acknowledged publicly.

Australian University promotes Islamofascism

From The Australian, Richard Kerbaj April 23, 2008:

A JUDGE has likened Griffith University to hardline Islamic "madrassas" in Pakistan - notorious for breeding radicals - and accused the Queensland institution of promoting a Muslim ideology espoused by Osama bin Laden.

Queensland District Court judge Clive Wall also accused Griffith of becoming an "agent" through which the Saudi Arabian embassy was propagating extreme Islam.

...Griffith asked the Saudi embassy in Australia for a $1.37 million grant for its Islamic Research Unit, even telling the ambassador that certain elements of the controversial deal could be kept a secret.

... Griffith - described by vice-chancellor Ian O'Connor as the "university of choice" for Saudis - offered the embassy a chance to "discuss" ways in which the money could be used.

... Judge Wall yesterday accused Griffith of becoming a Saudi stooge. "They're using the university as an agent to promote their bigoted brand of Islam," he said. "I'm concerned that a country which doesn't itself tolerate freedom of religion is promoting its own quite bigoted version here with the acquiescence of our learning institutions."

..."Like many people, I follow what's out there around the world and I was just concerned in particular about the source of the funding being Saudi Arabia. I'm concerned that a university which is in my area is not being entirely frank about what it's doing." Judge Wall accused Griffith's management of being "naive" in accepting Saudi funds, which have historically been linked to the propagation of fundamentalism.

The Saudi Government - largely through its embassy - is believed to have funnelled at least $120 million into Australia since the 1970s to bankroll radical clerics, build mosques and propagate hardline Islam. "I don't think the university should be involved in any way with these people," Judge Wall said.

...September's report in The Australian prompted Judge Wall to inquire about the nature of the fund and how it was intended to be used. He wrote to ...the Islamic unit - raising questions about the branch of Islam the university wanted to propagate.

"You have said that the Saudi grant to the Griffith Islamic Research Unit will be used to promote 'moderate Islam'," says Judge Wall in the letter obtained by The Australian. "What do you mean by 'moderate Islam' and what do you understand is the difference between moderate Islam and Wahabi Islam or Wahab-ism (sic) or 'hardline' purposes?"

.... But he never received an answer. "I'm a little concerned that I've received no response from the university to my letter," Judge Wall said. "They seem reluctant to discuss the matter."

Griffith did not return several phone calls from The Australian yesterday....

Accused of spying for Israel

From » International Apr 22, 2008 by GIL HOFFMAN, HERB KEINON AND AP*:

US Army engineer arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel

An 85-year-old former US Army mechanical engineer was arrested Tuesday on charges he slipped classified documents about nuclear weapons to an employee of the Israeli Consulate who also received information from convicted Pentagon spy Jonathan Pollard, US authorities announced.

Ben-Ami Kadish was charged in US District Court in Manhattan with four counts of conspiracy, including allegations that he disclosed US national defense documents to Israel and acted as an agent of the Israeli government.

At a court hearing Tuesday afternoon, Kadish, who was wearing black sweatpants, was released on a $300,000 property bond. He was required tosurrender his passport and can travel only in New Jersey and southern Manhattan. A potential preliminary hearing is set for May 22.

Prosecutors say Kadish, a US citizen who worked at an Army base in New Jersey, took home classified documents for six years and let the Israeli photograph them in his basement. Those documents included information about nuclear weapons, a modified version of an F-15 fighter jet, and the US Patriot missile air defense system.

A criminal complaint said Kadish confessed to FBI agents on Sunday that he had given the Israeli between 50 and 100 classified documents and accepted no cash in return, only small gifts and occasional dinners for him and his family.

Kadish admitted to the charges in court, saying that he wanted to help Israel....

*Michal Lando contributed to this report.

...and from DEBKAfile, April 23, 2008, 12:44 AM (GMT+02:00):

Octogenarian Ben-Ami Kadish accused of spying for Israel

Manhattan Federal Court ordered him to stay within New Jersey limits.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources ask which part of the US administration owned an interest in exposing this affair more than two decades after the event[?] And what did it hope to achieve?

The material put before the court indicates that the federal authorities and CIA had long been aware [of the allegations] that the Connecticut-born military engineer Ben-Ami Kadish was passing classified documents to the Israeli science attaché at the New York consulate before his retirement at least 18 years ago.

...The charge is serious enough to affect President George W. Bush’s plan to attend Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations next month.

...The US justice department describes Kadish's Israeli handler as the same man who handled convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. ...

...Kadish’s activities predated the Pollard affair. After Pollard’s exposure in 1986, Israel pledged to refrain from running spies in the United States.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

War Drums ...

From DEBKAfile, April 21, 2008, 10:48 PM (GMT+02:00):

Surge in Hamas attacks approved at secret Hamas-Syrian-Iranian talks in Damascus.... Gazan Hamas leaders in secret conference with high Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers in the Syrian capital Sunday, April 20, decided to intensify the bombardment and attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Tehran and Damascus believe spasms of violence - not only on the Gaza-Israel border, but also in Iraq and Lebanon - will best serve their purpose at two important Middle East encounters this week, to be attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice....

...and from DEBKAfile, April 21, 2008, 10:30 AM (GMT+02:00):

Middle East Efforts by Rice, Carter Spark More Violence....While Syrian president Bashar Assad talked about an exchange of messages with Israel through a third party – Turkey and Norway ... elsewhere in Damascus, Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers were meeting secretly with Hamas leaders and promising them every support for stepped up rejectionist violence.

In particular, they backed Hamas up in its ultimatum to Egypt (and indirectly Israel) to open the border crossings and end the blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza as the sine qua non for a lull in attacks on Israel and terms for Gilead Shalit’s release.

The impasse reached in Hamas-Egyptian truce talks, the failure of former US president Jimmy Carter’s mediation bids with Hamas and Syrian leaders, together with the presence in the region of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, all contribute to the scaling up of violence.

Tehran and Damascus believe that warfare - not only on the Gaza-Israel border, but also in Iraq and Lebanon – will work best for their interests at two important Middle East encounters this week at which Secretary Rice will be present.

One opening in Bahrain Monday, April 21 will bring Rice together with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the six Gulf nations, led by Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The next meeting on Iraq security, which takes place in Kuwait on April 22, will be attended by the foreign ministers of all Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran’s Mottaki Manouchehr....

....Orders therefore went out to Iran’s agents, proxies and dependants to keep the pot boiling in those trouble spots.....

As for Hamas, our intelligence sources report that Saturday, April 19, after the Gazan leaders Mahmoud a-Zahar and Siad Siyam...met former US president Jimmy Carter in Damascus...went straight into a conference with their masters. Khaled Meshaal and Mussa Abu Marzuk were there as well as Iranian intelligence officers based permanently in Syria and Syrian intelligence officers who maintain liaison with Hamas. It was agreed that Hamas would not only continue to batter the Gaza-Israel border as in the last ten days, but intensify its assaults against a broader range of targets.

Sunday night, Hamas fired 8 Qassam missiles and half a dozen mortar rounds against Israel civilian locations, their first nocturnal attack of this kind. Shortly before midnight, they directed fire at Israeli farmers who were harvesting the Kibbutz Nir Oz potato crop in bullet-proof vests by night to escape sniper fire from Gaza. Israeli air force strikes followed, hitting armed Palestinian bands. At least 8 gunmen were killed over the week end.

DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that these Israeli attacks and the deaths of its operatives offer Hamas neither disincentive nor impediment for its war preparations.

Mashaal's offer is meaningless


...Jimmy Carter ended his nine-day trip to the region with a promise from Hamas to offer Israel tacit recognition and a 10-year truce if Israel in turn withdrew to the pre-1967 borders.

Khaled Mashaal, whose group has sworn to destroy Israel, told reporters in Damascus on Monday that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank with Israel as its neighbor, but stressed that his group would not formally recognize it, a move immediately dismissed by the US as meaningless.

"We agree to a (Palestinian) state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements, but without recognizing Israel," Mashaal said."We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition." Mashaal said he made the offer to Carter during talks between the two men on Friday and Saturday in the Syrian capital.

...In Washington, deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey brushed aside Hamas's offer, saying the group's past rhetoric contained "all this language about truces and other kinds of issues. But the bottom line is, Hamas still believes in the destruction of the state of Israel; they don't believe Israel has a right to exist," adding it was clear "that nothing has changed" in Hamas's attitude - including that the group still refuses to explicitly recognize Israel and denounce terrorism.

....Carter, who ended his visit to the region on Monday, ....said repeatedly that in those meetings, as well as in others he held, he was simply on a fact-finding mission .... But he did more then just receive information. He tried and failed to broker deals regarding a cease-fire with Hamas and the release of Schalit.

He did, however, wrangle a promise from Hamas that it would send a letter from the young man to his parents. The gesture was acknowledged by Mashaal on Monday, who told reporters in Damascus that he had agreed to this "humanitarian" gesture out of respect for Carter.

Schalit's father, Noam, who, along with his wife, spoke with Carter both before and after his strip to Damascus, said he would wait until receiving the letter before commenting on the gesture..... government official said [Carter] had done more harm than good, even with the promise of a new letter..... In an attempt to pressure the Israeli public to pressure the government, Hamas is interested in opening up another negotiating track ...[that] goes directly to the public. Carter...serves this purpose, because the impression that things could move much faster if only another channel of communications were tapped is exactly the message Hamas wanted the Israeli public to hear.

The official said it was clear that Hamas was using Carter for its purposes...[and] that Hamas also used Carter to give it legitimization. The US and European Union position is that Hamas should not be engaged until it accepts three preconditions: recognizing Israel, disavowing terrorism and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. In comes Carter, ... and he meets Hamas without its having to pay any price, which is exactly what the organization wants to have happen with the rest of the world.

But, during his Jerusalem speech, Carter defended his actions....He ...reported that Hamas would accept any deal negotiated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, even one they disagreed with, as long as it was approved by the Palestinian people through a referendum.....

....But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza said Hamas's readiness to put a peace deal to a referendum "does not mean that Hamas is going to accept the result of the referendum." Such a referendum, he said, would have to be voted on by Palestinians living all over the world. They number about 9.3 million, including some 4 million living in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

A spokesman for Carter said the former president had already left the country and had no response to the comment.....

*AP contributed to this report.