Jimmy Carter has just returned from Jerusalem, where he joined Gro Harlem Brundtland for their fourth mission with The Elders.

“Our focus on this trip was on peace and reconciliation – not just between Israel and the Palestinians, but also between Fatah and Hamas to secure viable and lasting Palestinian unity,” wrote Carter in a message to supporters of The Elders. "We also wanted to draw attention to the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza eight months after the devastating war of summer 2014.

“We deeply regretted not being able to visit Gaza to see the situation at first hand, but what we heard from independent experts and UN officials confirmed our worst expectations.

“What we saw and heard only strengthened our determination to work for peace and the lifting of the blockade.

“The situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.

“Gaza’s 1.8 million people are besieged, isolated and desperate. They cannot enjoy any of the aspects of normal life, from trade and travel to health and education, that people in my country – and indeed in Israel – take for granted.

“Both Gro Harlem Brundtland and I have spent decades working for peace in this region. We believe the two-state solution is the only viable solution and remain convinced that a just and lasting deal is possible if all leaders show the necessary political will.

“In our meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, we were encouraged by his commitment to convene the Interim Leadership Framework that would include the Executive Committee of the PLO and representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“President Abbas also asked us as Elders to secure from Hamas a written request for the convening of elections, and he committed to hold Presidential and Palestinian Legislative Council elections upon receipt of this communication.

“These steps might seem merely procedural but they are vital to reconnecting Gaza and the West Bank politically, economically and socially.

“I know that many people in Israel and abroad find it hard to accept the idea of talking to Hamas. The Elders utterly condemn any terrorist acts that harm innocent people. But if you’re serious about peace-making, you have to sit down and talk to your enemies.

“It’s what the British did in Northern Ireland, it’s what the French did in Algeria, and it’s what the Israelis themselves did with Yasser Arafat – someone once branded a terrorist who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin.

“The Elders left Jerusalem with a mixture of some hope and much anxiety. Rest assured that we will continue to do our utmost to promote peace, justice, human rights and security for all in the region in the months and years ahead.”

To read the full blog of the visit, click here.

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