Jimmy Carter Blunders in USA Today

When it comes to Arab-Israeli affairs, is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter a) uninformed, b) misinformed, or c) blinded by an anti-Israel animus? His USA Today Op-Ed, “Israel’s new plan: A land grab” (May 16 print edition) makes a strong case for “all of the above.”

Key Errors

Carter falsely claims that:

1) Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to establish Israel’s permanent eastern border in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) “would take about half of the Palestinian West Bank ….”

According to the Israeli Supreme Court decision calling for the realignment of the route of the security barrier to lessen impact on Arabs in Judea and Samaria, the barrier will encompass only 7 percent (not “half”) of the West Bank. Olmert’s “convergence” proposal — to be enacted if Palestinian Arabs do not negotiate a final agreement in good faith — would lead to withdrawal from the more isolated Jewish communities to the east of Israel’s security barrier. The residents of those settlements would be consolidated in the major settlement blocs west (on the Israeli side) of the barrier.

2) “The barrier is not located on the internationally recognized boundary between Israel and Palestine, but entirely within and deeply penetrating the occupied territories.”
There is no “internationally recognized boundary between Israel and Palestine.” The 1949 – 1967 “green line” separating Israel from the Jordanian-occupied West Bank was and remains a temporary armistice line. The Arabs, refusing to recognize Israel, refused to negotiate a permanent border. Given the impermanent nature of the armistice lines, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) called for, among other things, negotiations to establish “secure and recognized” boundaries. The authors did not expect Israel to return to the vulnerable pre-’67 armistice lines.

While there may be a sovereign nation of “Palestine” in the future, currently there is no “Palestine.” The British Mandate for Palestine terminated in 1948. The West Bank is not “Palestinian” but disputed land and subject to negotiations, as Resolutions 242 and 338, and subsequent diplomatic intitiatives like the “road map” made clear. Jordan and Israel are successor states to “Palestine,” and the West Bank and Gaza Strip await final allocation.

3) The only internationally recognized “division of territory between Israel and the Palestinian … awarded 77 percent of the land to the nation of Israel ….”
Land alloted to the original British Mandate included what became Jordan (77.5 percent), the Golan Heights (later transferred to the French Mandate for Syria), what became Israel (17.5 percent), and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the remaining five percent.

4) “Gaza is now…almost completely isolated from the West Bank, Israel and the outside world.”

Carter appears to have forgotten that the Gaza Strip shares a border with Egypt and, through it, the rest of the world. That may have something to do with recently reported al Qaeda infiltration of Gaza, on which the former president is silent. And of course, if the terrorism emanating from Gaza stopped, there would be no need for the security measures that restrict movement between Gaza and Israel.

5) “Deep [Israeli] intrusions would effectively divide [the West Bank] into three portions.”

The security barrier’s route and an Israeli proposal to connect the suburb-settlement of Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem still would leave the West Bank as one contigous area. In fact, at its narrowest the West Bank would be about nine miles wide — the same as Israel at one of its most constricted points inside the pre-’67 “green line.”

6) “This confiscation of land is to be carried out without resorting to peace talks with the Palestinians, and in direct contravention of the ‘road map for peace’ ….”

Despite constant, material Palestinian Arab violations (including terrorism and anti-Jewish incitement) of the Oslo Accords and related agreement, Israel persisted in negotiations from 1993 to 2001. This effort included the 2000 Israeli-U.S. offer of a state on 95 percent-plus of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and on 97 percent-plus in 2001. In violation of the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians launched the “al-Aqsa intifada” terrorist war in 2000. Attempted terrorism continues at a high level, with occasional deadly attacks. Olmert is still offering negotiations — provided the Palestinian Arabs put forth a serious partner. But he said Israel will not wait much longer.

7) “Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government rejected the key provisions of the ‘road map’ by the … the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia ….”

Sharon and his government accepted the “road map,” but included a list of concerns that stressed that Palestinian obligations to halt terrorism and destroy terrorist infrastructure had to be carried out, not just Israeli obligations.

8) The “‘road map’ has been endorsed unequivocally by the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Endorsed, maybe; implemented, rarely. The PA under Abbas and his Fatah movement often promised to curtail anti-Israel terrorism and the PA’s pervasive anti-Israeli incitement, but for the most part did not. Now with Hamas leading the PA cabinet and legislature, Abbas wields even less influence.

9) “Although the recently elected Hamas legislators will neither recognize nor negotiate with Israel while Palestinian land is being occupied, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed approval for direct Olmert-Abbas peace talks.”

The “Palestinian land” Hamas considers occupied by Israel includes not just the West Bank but all of pre-’67 Israel as well. Hamas’ charter and its campaign this January make that clear. A gesture of approval by the Hamas prime minister “for direct Olmert-Abbas peace talks” might help soften international opposition to funding the PA government of terrorists. It costs Haniyeh nothing; meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Mesha’al, “urged supporters around the world … to send it arms, fighters and money to back its fight against arch-foe Israel,” Reuters news agency reported recently. Is Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and realpolitick over Carter’s head, or does he not care?

10) Lack of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is “one of the major causes of international terrorism ….”

Nonsense. Fanatical Islamists reject modernism and religious freedom. Any country or government that is not a theocracy practicing their particular extreme interpretation of Islam would be on the Islamist terrorists’ enemies’ list. Israel is just one of many hated countries and moderate Mus lims are also targets. Numerous commentators have pointed out that al Qaeda’s terrorism stemmed primarily from Osama bin Laden’s desire to oust the “infidel” U.S. presence from Saudi Arabia and overthrow the “sacriligeous” Saudi dynasty; destroying the Jewish state was low on the priority list until bin Laden expanded his targets to include other pro-Western Arab regimes like Jordan and Egypt. Islamic fundamentalism, personified by Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran, has always seen the United States as “the Great Satan,” Israel as only “the Little Satan.” Carter’s failure to recognize that threat, or to respond forcefully during the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, helped drive him from office. He appears to have learned little in the subsequent quarter-century.

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