A prominent American statesman just went to Israel and the West Bank and declared to the world that when it comes to peace, the leader of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is a villain, and the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, is a hero.

Carter Cartoon“I don’t believe that he’s a terrorist. He’s strongly in favor of the peace process,” this elderly statesman said about Mashaal, whose organization is rightly recognized by Israel, the United States and sane people everywhere as a terrorist group.

This statesman thinks it would be a waste of time to meet with Netanyahu, who, as prime minister, is essential to any genuine peace process, because he hasn’t committed to the necessary concessions.

We’ll stipulate that Netanyahu’s belief in a two-state solution is questionable, particularly when any Israeli leader would be hard pressed to make concessions while facing threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Islamic State and the cauldron of chaos called Syria.

But to proclaim Mashaal a man of peace, to say he is willing to accept Israel’s existence, to suggest he favors the peace process as anything other than an incremental effort to erase Israel from the map, is either insane, ignorant or dishonest.

You might know who the speaker was May 2. If you don’t know, we’ll give you one guess.

Yes, it was former President Jimmy Carter.

We hate writing about Carter, even though we’ve felled forests to supply all the newsprint we’ve filled with reporting and commentary on Georgia’s gift to the White House over the years.

The year we spent analyzing, criticizing and debunking “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” earned the AJT an award from the American Jewish Press Association, but we didn’t change anyone’s opinions about Carter, let alone influence the ex-president in his international crusade to — well, we don’t know what he’s trying to do anymore, beyond sell books and make himself feel relevant.

When it comes to Carter, it doesn’t matter whether we write with restraint or bombast. The editor had a little fun April 24 and called him a parasite. The reactions, ranging from delight to outrage, reflected hardened views about Carter rather than real opinions about whether Israeli leaders were right to refuse to meet with Carter during this trip. So it goes with anything written about a man who hasn’t held an actual job in 34 years.

We wish we could ignore Carter, but because he holds the title of ex-president and refuses to retire from the spotlight, he makes headlines, usually feeding the anti-Israel propaganda machine. Not only does Carter have nothing of value to offer the Middle East, but every time he says something lauding bad guys such as Mashaal, he makes a fair peace settlement more difficult to achieve by encouraging the next Hamas outrage.

We know nothing is gained by writing about Carter. If you think he’s our greatest ex-president, an unfairly maligned man of peace, you aren’t interested in any criticism. If you think he’s at best offensive and at worst dangerous, you don’t need more fuel for your disdain.

But as long as Carter portrays Hamas’ political leader as a 21st-century Anwar Sadat in search of his Menachem Begin, we’ll have to keep calling him out.