December 20th, 2006
I have great respect for Jimmy Carter’s taking on defense of Palestinians and pushing for a bearable peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I say “bearable” because, as in so many negotiations, no agreement can possibly right the wrongs that have been done. What is needed is an agreement that both sides can live with, allowing the region to flourish rather than continue its slide into barbarism.
I am here posting Carter’s op ed from today’s Boston Globe as a brief summary of his position. We shouldn’t let the Israel-no-matter-what faction demonize and distort his thinking.
Reiterating the keys to peace
By Jimmy Carter | December 20, 2006
MY BOOK “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” was published last month, expressing my assessment of circumstances in the occupied territories and prescribing a course of action that offers a path to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors. My knowledge of the subject is based on visits to the area during the past 33 years, my detailed study and personal involvement in peace talks as president, and my leadership role in monitoring the Palestinian elections of 1996, 2005, and 2006.
Some major points in the book are:
Multiple deaths of innocent civilians have occurred on both sides, and this violence and all terrorism must cease.
For 39 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian land, and has confiscated and colonized hundreds of choice sites.
Often excluded from their former homes, land, and places of worship, protesting Palestinians have been severely dominated and oppressed. There is forced segregation between Israeli settlers and Palestine’s citizens, with a complex pass system required for Arabs to traverse Israel’s multiple checkpoints.
An enormous wall snakes through populated areas of what is left of the West Bank, constructed on wide swaths of bulldozed trees and property of Arab families, obviously designed to acquire more territory and to protect the Israeli colonies already built. (Hamas declared a unilateral cease-fire in August 2004 as its candidates sought local and then national offices, which they claim is the reason for reductions in casualties to Israeli citizens.)
Combined with this wall, Israeli control of the Jordan River Valley will completely enclose Palestinians in their shrunken and divided territory. Gaza is surrounded by a similar barrier with only two openings, still controlled by Israel. The crowded citizens have no free access to the outside world by air, sea, or land.
The Palestinian people are now being deprived of the necessities of life by economic restrictions imposed on them by Israel and the United States because 42 percent voted for Hamas candidates in this year’s election. Teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, and other employees cannot be paid, and the UN has reported food supplies in Gaza equivalent to those among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa, with half the families surviving on one meal a day.
Mahmoud Abbas, first as prime minister and now as president of the Palestinian National Authority and leader of the PLO, has sought to negotiate with Israel for almost six years, without success. Hamas leaders support such negotiations, promising to accept the results if approved by a Palestinian referendum.
UN Resolutions, the Camp David Accords of 1978, the Oslo Agreement of 1993, official US Policy, and the International Roadmap for Peace are all based on the premise that Israel withdraw from occupied territories. Also, Palestinians must accept the same commitment made by the 23 Arab nations in 2002: to recognize Israel’s right to live in peace within its legal borders. These are the two keys to peace.
Not surprisingly, an examination of the book reviews and published comments reveals that these points have rarely if ever been mentioned by detractors of the book, much less denied or refuted. Instead, there has been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are frequent denunciations of fabricated “straw man” accusations: that I have claimed that apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and manipulate the news media of America.
As recommended by the Hamilton-Baker report, renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are a prime factor in promoting peace in the region. Although my book concentrates on the Palestinian territories, I noted that the report also recommended peace talks with Syria concerning the Golan Heights. Both recommendations have been rejected by Israel’s prime minister.
It is practically impossible for bitter antagonists to arrange a time, place, agenda, and procedures that are mutually acceptable, so an outside instigator/promoter is necessary. Successful peace talks were orchestrated by the United States in 1978-79 and by Norway in 1993. If the American government is reluctant to assume such a unilateral responsibility, then an alternative is the International Quartet (United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) — still with American leadership.
An overwhelming majority of citizens of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine want peace, with justice for all who live in the Holy Land. It will be a shame if the world community fails to help them reach this goal.
Former US president Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.