Jimmy Carter and Israel

September 8th, 2009

On Sunday, September 6 The Washington Post published another article by former President Jimmy Carter on issues involving Israel and the Palestinians. 

Carter’s article reported on a trip he made to the region with several other people he referred to as “Elders,” people who in the past have shown no evenhandedness on Middle East issues.  As usual, Carter’s approach is blatantly biased in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel, to the point of misstating some facts and totally ignoring others.  His view of the issues is best summed up in his words:

We found a growing sense of concern and despair among those who observe, as we did, that settlement expansion is continuing apace, rapidly encroaching into Palestinian villages, hilltops, grazing lands, farming areas and olive groves. There are more than 200 of these settlements in the West Bank.

Elliott Abrams wrote an excellent article in response, What Carter Missed in the Middle East, published in The Washington Post today.

If you read the Carter Article, you would do well to read Abrams’ response.  If you didn’t read Carter’s article, it would be instructive to read it first, then read what Abrams says.  Carter reflects, in an extreme way, the biases and lack of understanding evident in President Obama’s policy of pressuring Israel on the settlements issue, which places most if not all of the burden of guilt for long-standing problems on Israel’s shoulders.  In addition to debunking Carter’s views, Abrams also illustrates the errors in Obama’s approach. 

Excerpts from the Abrams article:

As with most of Carter’s recent statements about Israel and the Palestinians, instead of facts we get vignettes from recent Carter travels. And while he finds “a growing sense of concern and despair” among “increasingly desperate” Palestinians, polls do not sustain this view. The most recent survey by the leading Palestinian pollster, Khalil Shikaki (done in August, the same month Carter visited), shows “considerable improvement in public perception of personal and family security and safety in the West Bank and a noticeable decrease in public perception of the existence of corruption in [Palestinian Authority] institutions.” This does not sound like despair. In fact, positive views of personal and family safety and security in the West Bank stood at 25 percent four years ago, 35 percent two years ago and 43 percent a year ago, and they have risen to 58 percent in the past year, Shikaki reports. There are other ways to measure quality of life in the West Bank: The International Monetary Fund recently stated that “macroeconomic conditions in the West Bank have improved” largely because “Israeli restrictions on internal trade and the passage of people have been relaxed significantly.” …

Carter states that Gaza is a “walled-in ghetto” and that “Israel prevents any cement, lumber, seeds, fertilizer and hundreds of other needed materials from entering through Gaza’s gates.” But Gaza is not an enclave surrounded by Israel; it has a border with Egypt. Every commodity that Carter says is needed can be supplied by Egypt, a point he overlooks in his efforts to blame Palestinian problems exclusively on the Jewish state.

Similarly, he says that “[s]ome additional goods from Egypt reach Gaza through underground tunnels,” phrasing that suggests the “additional goods” may help reduce shortages. In fact, they include missiles and rockets, thousands of which have been fired into Israel since its troops left Gaza in 2005. While Carter warns that a Palestinian “civil rights struggle” is in the offing, he says nothing about Palestinian violence in the real world — in which Palestinian terrorist groups continue to attack Israel and where all of Gaza is, of course, in the hands of one such group, Hamas.

Carter claims that the expansion of Israeli settlements is “rapidly” taking Palestinian land. Yet four years ago Israel gave up the Gaza Strip and all the settlements there (plus four small West Bank settlements); moreover, Carter presents no data suggesting that Israel’s West Bank settlements are actually expanding physically. Their population is growing, but new construction is almost all “up and in,” meaning that the impact on Palestinians is limited — and that the picture Carter paints of a rapidly disappearing Palestine is inaccurate.

Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter’s claim that “a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key” to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza — no, the sole “key” is Israeli settlements. Such a conclusion fits with Carter’s general approach, in which there are no real Palestinians, just victims of Israel. The century of struggle between moderate and radical Palestinians, and the victories of terrorists from Haj Amin al-Husseini to Yasser Arafat, are forgotten; the Hamas coup in Gaza is unmentioned; indeed the words “Hamas” and “terrorism” do not appear in Carter’s column. Instead of appealing for support for the serious and practical work of institution-building that the Palestinian Authority has begun, Carter fantasizes about a “nonviolent civil rights struggle” that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades. Carter’s portrait demonizes Israelis and, not coincidentally, it infantilizes Palestinians, who are accorded no real responsibility for their fate or future.


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One Response to “Jimmy Carter and Israel”



  1. Harvey |

    Tom,

    One can only wonder why Carter has always been blind to the Palestinian infractions of the peace and so uncaring about the plight of the Jews. Perhaps the Baptists still hold a grudge over the Crucificxion! (LOL!)


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