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Book Reviews : Political Last Updated: 25 Mar. 2008 - 7:18:47 PM


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Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - Jimmy Carter
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20 Feb. 2007 - 9:58:09 AM

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Palestine : Peace Not Apartheid - Jimmy Carter

Simon & Schuster, New York and London, 2006

This is a timely intervention by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, as the situation in the Holy Land, Israel/Palestine, continues to fester, with no hope of peace in sight as I write this review in February 2007.

Jimmy Carter says that, “one of the major goals of my life ... has been to help ensure a lasting peace for Israelis and others in the Middle East.”   In this book he attempts to be fair-minded towards both Israelis and Palestinians, this will not please all who read this book, and his prospective is of course coloured by an American prospective on the events of the last sixty years, as he says, “the issues are extremely complex.”

You can get the flavour of Carter’s approach when he writes, “Continuing impediments have been the desire of some Israelis for Palestinian land, the refusal of some Arabs to accept Israel as a neighbor, the absence of a clear and authoritative Palestinian voice acceptable to Israel, the refusal of both sides to join peace talks with onerous preconditions, the rise in Islamic fundamentalism, and the recent lack of any protracted effort by the United States to pursue peace based on international law and previous agreements ratified by Israel.”   No one comes off well from such an analysis; American, Israeli, or Palestinian.

Carter believes that three basic premises are required for peace:

“1. Israeli’s right to exist within recognized borders   - and to live in peace   - must be accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbors;

2.      The killing of non-combatants in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon by bombs, missile attacks, assassinations, or other acts of violence cannot be condoned; and

3.   Palestinians must live in peace and dignity in their own land as specified by international law unless modified by good-faith negotiations with Israel.”

The main purpose of writing this book is to propose Carter’s blueprint for peace.   Carter also describes his experiences of dealing with Israelis and Palestinians before, during, and after, his Presidency.   In particular he describes how the Camp David Accords were negotiated, and this alone makes this book an interesting historical document.   His conclusion is that the dream of peace could have been realized “if Israel had complied with the Camp David Accords and refrained from colonizing the West Bank.”

Carter also describes the main players, the neighbouring countries and the history of the Holy Land, he says that the future of Israeli will be determined within Israel itself and that the critical issues are still not decided.

Carter also describes developments in the Holy Land in the 1980s and 1990s and his own visits to the Middle East

Of recent events he says of the Roadmap that “Israel has been able to use it as a delaying tactic with an endless series of preconditions which can never be me” and “the United States has been able to give the impression of positive ‘engagement’ in a ‘peace process’.”   Carter says that, “The International Quartet realizes that Israel must have a lasting and comprehensive peace.   This will not be possible unless Israel accepts the terms of the Roadmap and reverses its colonizing the internationally recognized Palestinian territory, and unless the Palestinians respond by accepting Israel’s right to exist, free of violence.”

Carter also describes the work of The Carter Center to assist peacemakers like Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo who proposed the Geneva Initiative.   Carter says that he also reported his concerns about Israel’s rejection of the Roadmap and the building of the wall to President George W Bush.   Carter is also well aware of the problems that the Palestinians live with, that the people in Gaza “are being strangled since the Israeli ‘withdrawal,’ surrounded by a separation barrier that is penetrated only by Israeli-controlled checkpoints” and that “Per capita income has decreased 40 percent during the last three years, and the poverty rate has reached 70 percent.”   There is acute malnutrition in Gaza.

He says that “Israeli leaders have embarked on a series of unilateral decisions, bypassing both Washington and the Palestinians.”   Carter says that Israeli policy …. “is imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories.”  

Carter says that there are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:

“1.       Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and

2.                  Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories.”

In Carter’s words, “The cycle of distrust and violence is sustained and efforts for peace are frustrated.”   He concludes that, “The only rational response to this continuing tragedy is to revitalize the peace process through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but the United States has, in effect, abandoned this effort.”  

He says that the key requirements for peace are that:

·         The security of Israel must be guaranteed

·         The internal debate within Israel must be resolved in order to define Israel’s permanent legal boundary, and that

·         The sovereignty of all Middle East nations and sanctity of international borders must be honoured.

Carter says that the bottom line is that Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East “only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace … by accepting its own legal borders.”   He says that it will be a tragedy “if a system of oppression, apartheid and sustained violence is permitted to prevail.”

It could be said that President Carter is still working to achieve the peace that the Camp David Accords promised.   He is a friend to all who desire peace in the Middle East, but at present his words fall on deaf ears, one can only hope for new leaders who will use Carter’s experience and knowledge in order to work for and achieve a lasting settlement in the Holy Land.

 

 

 

 



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