‘Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid’: Jimmy Carter’s Middle East Peace Plan
Jimmy Carter’s Middle East Peace Plan
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid
Simon and Schuster, 2006
by Henry Edward Hardy
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, former US President Jimmy Carter’s newest book, is a fair-minded and well-reasoned account and analysis of the past 50 years of Palestinian and Israeli relations. The inflammatory title is unfortunate: not because one could not make a case that there are similarities between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the former white minority regime in South Africa. Simply though, it’s a case he doesn’t make. The book isn’t about apartheid, and it isn’t really mostly about Palestine per se. Rather, it is a diplomatic perspective of the history leading to the current bloody stalemate, and how in Carter’s view it might be alleviated.In many ways, Carter is an ideal interlocutor to describe and analyze the events, policies and personalities which have shaped the bloody history of Palestine and Israel. His recounting of past events and meetings, based on copious note taken by Carter and his wife Rosalynn, have the ring of truth and authenticity to them that writers like Bob Woodward must rightfully envy.
Carter cannot be justly accused of having an overly sympathetic view toward the PLO, Hamas or their elites. Similarly he clearly understands the different natures of the Arab and Israeli regimes. He says, “Only among Israelis, in a democracy with almost unrestricted freedom of speech, can one hear a wide range of opinion concerning the disputes among themselves and with Palestinians.” By contrast, Carter says, “It is almost fruitless to seek free expressions of opinion from private citizens in Arab countries with more authoritarian leadership.”
Carter begins with a succinct timeline of key events in the post-1948 history of what was previously known as Palestine under the British Mandate. His chapter on “The Key Players” has an informative summary of the narrative of key events as constructed by Israeli, Palestinian, US, and Arab officials and personalities.
Carter is not too immodest in describing the Camp David peace process that led to peace between Israel and Egypt and the Nobel Peace Prize for himself in 2004. He does speak disdainfully of the rather amateurish (in his view) efforts of the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations, while he speaks approvingly of former Reagan Secretary of State James Baker.
It is clear that Carter has continued to play a behind-the-scenes role in the Middle East. He describes how he and the personnel of the Carter Center overcame significant obstacles in monitoring the elections for the Palestinian Parliament and President. And he describes some interesting detail of how he helped to facilitate the back-channel negotiations which led to the “Geneva Initiative”, an unofficial framework for a comprehensive negotiated solution to the illegal Israeli occupation of the land seized in the 1967 “Six Day War”.
Some of Carter’s most withering criticism pertains to what he calls Israel’s “segregation wall” separating parts of the West Bank from other parts. “Israeli leaders,” Carter writes, “are imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories”. Carter notes that this wall was found to be in contravention of International laws and covenants by the International Court of Justice, but that the Israeli Supreme Court and Israeli government have refused to recognize or implement this decision.
Carter understands that the basis for any permanent peace in Palestine must come within the framework of UN Security Council resolution 242, which calls for the return of land seized by Israel during the Six-Day War. Carter notes that Israel itself voted for the resolution.
Carter’s recollection of facts, dates and personalities is such that we can only wish regretfully that the current President, a man 22 years his junior, could be even half as percipient and perspicuous. Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is an admirable primer for the history of the conflict and what has brought it to the current fraught state of affairs. It is a devastating critique of Israeli diplomatic perfidy and double-dealing and of the impossible conditions of privation and despair brought about by the segmentation and fragmentation of the West Bank; the desperate poverty and malnutrition brought on by the Israeli siege, and the counterproductive spiral of suicide bombings and military reprisals it engenders.
Carter borrows from his previous book, The Blood of Abraham (Houghton Mifflin 1985), so not all of the material in this current effort can be considered entirely new. His writing style is pedestrian, although not plodding it by no means sizzles, sparkles, or snaps. He is a bit prim and patrician in his uncharitable evaluation of Clinton’s peace efforts and the current administration’s diplomatic aspirations. And his evangelical background tinges some of his perspectives with an unfortunate, and unnecessarily sectarian cast. Though imperfect, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is a lucid, thoughtful and important book.
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (wikipedia)
A version of this article was previously published in Current Magazine and on Electric Current.
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
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