A Comfortable Platform for Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter, who is making the rounds at television studios pitching his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Can Work, has tried his hand at political satire. He appeared January 26 as a guest Comedy Central's "Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which describes itself as follows:

One anchor, six correspondents, zero credibility.

If you're tired of the stodginess of the evening newscasts and you can't bear to sit through the spinmeisters and shills on the 24-hour cable news network, don't miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the nightly half-hour series unburdened by objectivity, journalistic integrity or even accuracy.

Apparently taking seriously the last part, Carter spouts egregious inaccuracies during his "Daily Show" appearance, including:

Right now in that Holy Land between the Jordan [River] and the Mediterranean, you have a majority of people who are not Jews, not Israelis, not Jews.

In actuality, Jews make up 54 percent of the population between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, which includes Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, there are currently 10,020,000 people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. And the Statistical Abstract of Israel (2008) states that there are 5,478,200 Jewish Israelis (including those living within the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel and those over the Green Line.) Thus, contrary to Carter's claim, the Jewish population between the river and the sea outnumbers the non-Jewish population.

Nevertheless, underscoring the fact that Carter apparently believes his bogus claim about a non-Jewish majority, he repeats a version of it on other media outlets, including Al Jazeera English. In a January 29 interview with Riz Khan, he states:

And as I describe in one of the chapters in my book, a one-state solution would be a catastrophe for Israel, because with only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, you would, at this moment, have a majority of non-Jews in the population. And you would very soon, in just a few years, have a majority of Arabs . . .

And, National Public Radio's Terry Gross, in her January 27 "Fresh Air" interview with Carter, repeats the president's claim, likewise fudging:

And Palestinians get a vote [in a one-state solution] and would soon, or already, outnumber Israelis.

Beyond the fuzzy numbers problem, Carter repeats earlier falsehoods (see here) about Hamas violations of the ceasefire. On Al Jazeera, Carter again pats himself on the back for his own (inflated) role in the region, claiming:

Well, I know what happened in this last ceasefire. I was the one that helped to orchestrate it. . . and the agreement was that they would stop all attacks on each other, that Hamas would stop all the rockets and that Israel would open the supply line going to supply food and water and medicines and fuel to the one and half million Palestinians. That was the agreement. Hamas kept their promise I would say 99 percent. Three months there was just one mortar round or rocket fire -- no damage done. But Israel did not keep their promise on opening up their supply lines; they only increased to about twenty percent.

But still Hamas kept their promise until the fourth day of November, at which time Israel attacked Gaza militarily because they claimed that there was a tunnel being built, it turned out that the tunnel was completely within the walls of Gaza and there are probably a thousand other tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. But that was what precipitated the breakdown in the ceasefire.

There are numerous falsehoods in this excerpt. To begin, one mortar round or rocket fire in three months? Once again, Carter demonstrates his difficulty with numbers. In reality, as reported earlier by CAMERA, in the first five months of the cease-fire, until Nov. 4, Palestinians fired 18 mortars at Israel, beginning on the night of June 23, and 20 rockets, starting on June 24, when three rockets hit Sderot, slightly injuring two people. As for Carter's dismissive "no damage done" attitude, there was the physical damage such as that pictured below as well as the unseen mental anguish and damage inflicted on children again forced to live with the insecurity of not knowing when they would again have to drop their toys and make a run for the bomb shelter or wake in the middle of the night to flee.

Sderot residents inspect damage to a house after a Palestinian rocket slammed into it on June 24, 2008, five days after the ceasefire was declared (Photo by Rafel Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye)

Other Palestinian attacks from the Gaza --also violations of the cease-fire -- are the July 6 light arms fire from Gaza on farmers working in the fields of Nahal Oz, an Aug. 15 night-time cross-border Palestinian shooting attack at Israeli soldiers near the Karni crossing, and the planting of an explosive device near the security fence in the area of Sufa crossing. On Oct. 31, as an IDF patrol approached the device which they had spotted, Palestinians fired two anti-tank missiles.

There were two Palestinian attempts to infiltrate from Gaza into Israel apparently to abduct Israelis.

The first came to light on Sept. 28, when Israeli personnel arrested Jamal Atallah Sabah Abu Duabe. The 21-year-old Rafah resident had used a tunnel to enter Egypt and from there planned to slip across the border into Israel. Investigation revealed that Abu Duabe was a member of Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and that he planned to lure Israeli soldiers near the border by pretending to be a drug smuggler, capture them, and then sedate them with sleeping pills in order to abduct them directly into Gaza through a preexisting tunnel. For more details click here and here.

The second was the attempt that Carter dismisses and distorts as an Israeli claim "that there was a tunnel being built. It turned out that the tunnel was completely within the walls of the Gaza and there are probably a thousand other tunnels between Gaza and Egypt." Besides the fact that the only wall around Gaza is the wall separating Gaza and Egypt, Carter seriously misleads by falsely suggesting that the tunnel in question was "between Gaza and Egypt." The opening of the tunnel destroyed Nov. 4 was 245 meters (less than 2/10 of a mile) away from the security fence separating Gaza from Israel -- not Egypt. Israeli intelligence had learned that it was for the abduction of soldiers, similar to the attack in which Gilead Shalit was captured and two soldiers were killed two and a half years earlier.

Easing or Opening of Blockade?

As for the claim that Israel did not keep its end of the deal by failing to "opening up their supply lines; they only increased to about twenty percent," this too is fabrication. Neither of the two sides ever expected or agreed that Israel would completely lift the blockade. Rather, the ceasefire arrangement called for Israel to ease the blockade. As reported in the New York Times on June 20, 2008:

As part of the truce agreement, Israel is supposed to start easing the sanctions imposed after Hamas seized control of Gaza last June. ("Truce Starts For Israel and Hamas in Gaza," Isabel Kershner).

Similarly, the Associated Press reported June 19, 2008 that the ceasefire

also obliges Israel to ease a punishing blockade of the coastal strip ("Gaza Truce Takes Hold, Skepticism Abounds," Ibrahim Barzak)

Also, the AFP reported:

The deal also entails a gradual easing of Israel's blockade of the overcrowded strip of land where most of the 1.5 million population depend on outside aid. ("Fragile Gaza Truce Comes Into Force," Sakher Abu El Oun, June 19, 2008)

Likewise, the Palestinian Maan News Agency reported June 19:

If the ceasefire holds for three days, Israel says it will ease its year-long blockade on the Gaza Strip, allowing goods and badly-needed fuel into the impoverished coastal sector.

Furthermore, the amount of materials flowing from Israel's supply lines to the Gaza Strip increased to more than the 20 percent that Carter claims. As documented in a Nov. 19, 2008 report by PalTrade (Palestine Trade Center), the total monthly average imports into Gaza from Israel before the Hamas takeover, at which point Israel instituted the blockade, was 9,400 truckloads (January to June 12, 2007). In the ceasefire months (June 22, 2008 to Oct. 23, 2008) saw an average import rate of 3,555. Thus, according to Palestinian statistics, imports were flowing in at 37.8 percent of the pre-blockade rate. Moreover, the 3,555 truckload rate during the ceasefire months represents an increase of 184 percent over the months preceding the ceasefire (June 12, 2007 to June 22, 2008), when an average of 1,930 truckloads per month entered the Strip from Israel. Thus, with an increased truckload rate of 184 percent, Israel did indeed ease the blockade, as called for by the ceasefire.
 
Camp David, the West Bank and Gaza

Carter's recounting of the 30-year-old Camp David agreement is as faulty as his recollection of the 2008 ceasefire terms. Thus, he repeatedly -- and erroneously -- claims that as part of the Camp David Accords, Israel agreed to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On Al Jazeera, he states:

And the Camp David Accords was two parts; one was between Israel and Egypt, which is what you mentioned. The other part was a commitment by Israel - by Menachem Begin - confirmed by the Knesset, their parliament, that Israel would withdraw, militarily and economically and politically from the West Bank and Gaza, and that they would acknowledge U.N. 242 as prevalent, that is, you couldn't acquire territory by war. So Israel carried out the commitment made on peace with Israel (sic) - withdrawing from the Sinai, but they didn't carry out the other part that they agreed to do that is concerning the Palestinians.

Likewise, on the "Daily Show," he claims:

The agreement that we worked out then, 30 years ago, in six months, was that Israel would withdraw its military and political forces from the West Bank. . .

Contrary to Carter's statements, Israel at no time agreed to an unconditional withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and certainly not within a six-month time period. A March 26, 1979 joint letter from then Egyptian President Sadat and then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to President Carter spelled out that many steps that would have to take place before Israel would withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The letter, attached to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, stated:

This letter confirms that Israel and Egypt have agreed as follows:

The Governments of Israel and Egypt recall that they concluded at Camp David and signed at the White House on September 17, 1978, the annexed documents entitled "A Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreed at Camp David" and "Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt."

For the purpose of achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the above-mentioned Frameworks, Israel and Egypt will proceed with the implementation of those provisions relating to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to start negotiations within a month after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the Peace Treaty. In accordance with the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East," the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is invited to join the negotiations. The Delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians as mutually agreed. The purpose of the negotiations shall be to agree, prior to the elections, on the modalities for establishing the elected self-governing authority (administrative council), define its powers and responsibilities and agree upon other related issues. In the event Jordan decides not to take part in the negotiations, the negotiations will be held by Israel and Egypt.

The two Governments agree to negotiate continuously and in good faith to conclude these negotiations at the earliest possible date. They also agree that the objective of the negotiations is the establishment of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza in order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants.

Israel and Egypt set for themselves the goal of completing the negotiations within one year so that elections will be held as expeditiously as possible after agreement has been reached between the parties. The self-governing authority referred to in the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East" will be established and inaugurated within one month after it has been elected, at which time the transitional period of five years will begin. The Israel military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn, to be replaced by the self-governing authority, as specified in the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East." A withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will then take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations. (Emphases added.)

Thus, before any Israeli withdrawal would take place -- the extent of which was to be determined by negotiations -- the following steps were required: 1) the start of negotiations (within one month); 2) the completion of talks (one year); 3) elections (as quickly as possible) after the end of the one-year talks; the establishment and inauguration of the self-governing authority; 4) the five-year transitional period, including the withdrawal of the civil administration and then the withdrawal of military. If each step were to be implemented successfully, an Israeli withdrawal could take place within six years time, at the minimum, not six months. And, again, the extent of the withdrawal was to be determined by negotiations, and the implementation dependent on all the aforementioned preliminary steps.

Yet, Egypt and Israel never concluded their negotiations, which stretched beyond the May 1980 target date, and which saw multiple suspensions on the part of Sadat. (The PLO and Jordan refused to participate in the talks.) So, for Carter to say that the Israelis "didn't carry out the other part that they agreed to do, that is concerning the Palestinians," is a gross deception.

Conclusion

Jon Stewart jokes with Carter at the beginning of his interview, "You've written a lot of books. Is this your first foray into fiction?" Carter laughingly replies in the negative, mentions a novel he wrote, and overlooks an equally fictitious earlier book he penned -- Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. While zero credibility and the lack of objectivity and accuracy are suitable for political satire, such characteristics are a problematic for a former U.S. president.


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