DUBLIN, Ireland – Former President Jimmy Carter accused the U.S., Israel and the European Union on Tuesday of seeking to divide the Palestinian people by reopening aid to President Mahmoud Abbas' new government in the West Bank while denying the same to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was addressing a human rights conference in Ireland, also said the Bush administration's refusal to accept Hamas' 2006 election victory was "criminal."
Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with Abbas' moderate Fatah movement.
Hamas fighters routed Fatah in their violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week. The split prompted Abbas to dissolve the power-sharing government with his rivals in Hamas and set up a Fatah-led administration to govern the West Bank.
Carter said the consensus of the U.S., Israel and the EU to start funneling aid to Abbas' new government in the West Bank but continue blocking Hamas in the Gaza Strip represented an "effort to divide Palestinians into two peoples."
"All efforts of the international community should be to reconcile the two, but there's no effort from the outside to bring the two together," he said.
The U.S. and European countries cut off the Hamas-led government last year because of the Islamic militant group's refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel. They have continued to send humanitarian aid to Gaza through the United Nations and other organizations.
In the latest crisis, the U.S., Israel and much of the West have been trying to shore up Abbas in hopes that the West Bank can be made into a democratic example that would bring along Gaza.
During his speech to Ireland's annual Forum on Human Rights, the 83-year-old former president said monitors from his Carter Center observed the 2006 election that Hamas won. He said the vote was "orderly and fair" and Hamas triumphed, in part, because it was "shrewd in selecting candidates," whereas a divided, corrupt Fatah ran multiple candidates for single seats.
Far from encouraging Hamas' move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the U.S. and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.
"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.
"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.
Carter said the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza" — but Hamas routed Fatah in the fighting last week because of its "superior skills and discipline."