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Media Analyses





Coddling Carter: ABC's Stephanopoulos Opts for Softball Interview


As Jimmy Carter's error-ridden Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid continued on the New York Times bestseller list for the 13th week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos sat down with the former president on February 25 for a wide-ranging interview (excerpts below of Israel-related section).

Despite the many articles and critiques available enumerating factual errors in the book, the ABC host who often raises challenging questions for guests, touched only superficially on two items, didn't follow up and omitted many other possible topics. He mentioned one ill-worded passage in Carter's book and posed a non-specific query about critics saying Carter had "hardened" his heart toward Israel.

Otherwise, Carter enjoyed another high-profile forum to peddle distortions.

** Carter countered the question about his hardened heart by saying most Israelis and American Jews "agree with me that Israel must exchange Palestinian land for peace" — as though Israel hadn't tried to make an "exchange" of land for peace. Carter routinely distorts the facts about both Israel's unprecedented offer in 2000/2001 and the response by Arafat and his forces — a war of terror. Onus and responsibility are laid instead on Israel. Most Israelis and American Jews have, of course, long been prepared for a territorial compromise but they surely do not "agree" with Carter's deceptions.

Stephanopoulos could have said: "Mr. President, didn't Israel try to exchange land for peace in 2000? In fact, isn't this in a section of your book challenged by Dennis Ross and others who were present at Camp David? They say you've seriously misrepresented the far-reaching offer made by Israel."

Nor do most Israelis and Jews automatically term all the area of the West Bank "Palestinian land" as Carter does in virtually every reference to the territory. Such mischaracterization is connected to his bending of facts related to UN Security Council Resolution 242 whose drafters repeatedly and explicitly made clear that the intent of this key diplomatic guidepost was to permit territorial adjustments to safeguard Israel. That is to say, what's "Palestinian land" and "Israeli land" are yet to be fully determined.

** Carter also charges that "it's almost politically suicidal in the United States for a member of the Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti-policy of the conservative Israeli government, which is equated, as I've seen it myself, as anti-Semitism."

Stephanopoulos could have said: "Mr. President, Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt has termed these repeated references to alleged Jewish intimidation and power 'traditional anti-Semitic canards.' Are you aware of anti-Semitic libels that Jews control the levers of power? Can you see why some people might find your comments surprising and objectionable? "

** Stephanopoulos could have asked numerous other substantive questions — departing from the well-trod path of other interviewers who've also given Carter a pass.

To see numerous articles about Carter's book and interviews, click here.

***************************************

 Excerpts from the interview:

THIS WEEK

Feb. 25, 2007

Stephanopoulos: ... You've also been involved in some controversy lately. I see you're smiling. Your latest book has probably gotten you the most intense personal criticism of your career.

Carter: Yes, of my life.

Stephanopoulos: Of your life?

Carter: Yes. Well, you know, I've never before been called a liar or an.

Stephanopoulos: Anti-Semite.

Carter: an anti-Semite or a plagiarist or a thief or a coward. These personal epithets against me have been a surprise.

Stephanopoulos: Do you regret writing the book?

Carter: No. The book is necessary. I think this book will make a major - a little step, I don't want to exaggerate - toward, first of all, precipitating a debate or an open discussion about what's going on in Palestine. Secondly, I hope it will be a little factor in renewing the abandoned effort to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors. 

Stephanopoulos: How do you respond to your critics who say that the book demonstrates that you've hardened your heart to Israel ?

Carter: First of all, my honest opinion is that a strong majority of Israelis agree with me. Secondly, I believe a clear majority of American Jewish citizens agree with me that Israel must exchange Palestinian land for peace. If I have had one burning desire in my heart and mind for the last 30 years, I would put peace for Israel at the top of the list.. And commensurate with that has to be justice and human rights for the Palestinians next door. And I believe this book accurately describes what's going on in the West Bank and I believe it will contribute to accomplishing that goal. .

Stephanopoulos: I know one part of the book you do regret is one sentence where you seem to say that the Palestinians should give up violence only when.

Carter: I didn't use "only," but I did say "when."

Stephanopoulos: "When," yes.

Carter: That was a mistake. Obviously, it was - you know, I write every word of my book. I don't have any ghost writers. And I wrote that sentence. And it slipped by, you know, the copy editors at Simon and Schuster and it slipped by me. And I didn't realize that that sentence implied that I wanted to see atrocities committed and terrorism continued until after we get a permanent agreement. That's ridiculous because it's in direct contravention to everything else that I said in the book. But that sentence has been corrected.

Stephanopoulos: I was at the forum, last night, with Secretary Albright. And you were very blunt when you were asked.

Question: With the new Democratic Congress, do you believe the U.S. will be more able to achieve peace in the Middle East?

Carter: No. I don't see any present prospect that any member of the U.S. Congress, the House or Senate, would say, "Let's take a balanced position between Israel and the Palestinians and negotiate a peace agreement." I don't see any possibility.

Stephanopoulos: No member?

Carter: I don't know of any. There may be two or three members. Because it's almost politically suicidal in the United States for a member of the Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti- policy of the conservative Israeli government, which is equated, as I've seen it myself, as anti-Semitism. And one reason I wrote the book was just to precipitate a discussion or a debate or question. And I think.

Stephanopoulos: Well, you have gotten that, certainly.

Carter: That has been accomplished.

Stephanopoulos: No question about that. Of course, the whole country is also talking about Iraq.

I don't see any present prospect that any member of the U.S. Congress, the House or Senate, would say, "Let's take a balanced position between Israel and the Palestinians and negotiate a peace agreement." I don't see any possibility.

Stephanopoulos: No member?

Carter: I don't know of any. There may be two or three members. Because it's almost politically suicidal in the United States for a member of the Congress who wants to seek reelection to take any stand that might be interpreted as anti- policy of the conservative Israeli government, which is equated, as I've seen it myself, as anti-Semitism. And one reason I wrote the book was just to precipitate a discussion or a debate or question. And I think.

Stephanopoulos: Well, you have gotten that, certainly.

Carter: That has been accomplished.


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