Politics & Policy

‘There He Goes Again’ — Jimmy Carter Blames Israel One More Time

(Reuters photo: Asmaa Waguih)
The former American president wants the U.S. to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.

Jimmy Carter is 92 now, and it has been 36 years since his landslide defeat for reelection. But neither the passage of time nor the debilities of age slow him from making proposals that will do real harm to the State of Israel — and he has just tried one more time.

In Monday’s New York Times, he writes that “America must recognize Palestine” and presents a version of Israeli reality that simply takes leave of the facts. Carter tells us that “the simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.”

Now, granting diplomatic recognition to “the state of Palestine” will no more make it a legitimate and genuine country than granting diplomatic recognition to Plains, Ga., would make it one. The fact that 137 countries have done so — to no effect whatsoever — ought to make that obvious. So, what is Carter’s real goal here? He writes that it is peace, but the steps he proposes and the analysis he offers would leave Israel and the Palestinians further from peace than ever.

The “facts” Carter adduces are not only wrong, but tricky and misleading. For example, he writes that there are “600,000 Israeli settlers.” That number can only be reached by counting every Israeli living in Jerusalem — including in the Jewish Quarter, and the parts barred to Jews by Jordan before 1967 — as settlers. He writes that “Israel is building more and more settlements, displacing Palestinians and entrenching its occupation of Palestinian lands,” but he offers no data — because there is none to support his claim. Anyone who has visited the West Bank knows that virtually all settlements have not displaced Palestinians but have been, instead, built on fallow land, and the number of settlements and the land they take up rises very slowly indeed. The actual land area taken up by settler buildings themselves covers perhaps 1 percent of the West Bank, though far more falls within settlement boundaries. Roughly 12 percent of the West Bank lies to the west of the security barrier built by Israel to stop Palestinian terrorism. That barrier is not moving, or creeping, or taking up more land.

The ‘facts’ Carter adduces are not only wrong, but tricky and misleading.

But it is reducing terrorism, which is worth mentioning because Carter does not do so. What is really needed to move toward peace is security — an end to terrorism. That is a subject entirely absent from Carter’s op-ed. Mr. Carter writes that “the commitment to peace is in danger of abrogation.” By whom? He holds the Palestinians responsible for nothing and accountable for nothing. George W. Bush used to refer to “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” and the phrase surely applies here. Mr. Carter infantilizes the Palestinians, but then says they must immediately have a state. The logic will escape most readers. Mr. Carter says “security guarantees for both Israel and Palestine are imperative” and adds “a possible peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations.” Nothing could faster produce a combination of laughter and the chills among Israelis than turning their security over to international “guarantees” provided by United Nations forces. They have seen across the globe what guarantees and even “red lines” are worth, and they have experienced 68 years of slander and discrimination at the United Nations. It is hard to believe Mr. Carter can makes those proposals with a straight face.

But he does, in part courtesy of another neat trick: Carter makes believe he has the people of Israel on his side. He writes this:

The Carter Center has continued to support a two-state solution by hosting discussions this month with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, searching for an avenue toward peace. Based on the positive feedback from those talks, I am certain that United States recognition of a Palestinian state would make it easier for other countries that have not recognized Palestine to do so.

Israeli “representatives?” Really? Elected by whom? Appointed by whom? We know the answer: by Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, and selected to provide the answers he desires.

#related#The world has changed since Mr. Carter’s diplomatic sessions at Camp David in 1978. Gaza is in the hands of a vicious terrorist group, Hamas. Jihadis associated with Islamic State and al-Qaeda threaten Israel, Jordan, and the entire region — including the Palestinians. Relations between Israel and the Sunni states are warmer than they have been in decades and perhaps ever. And since 1978, round after round of Palestinian terror have killed just under 2,000 Israelis in hundreds of attacks. Meanwhile, political development on the Palestinian side is frozen; the Palestinian Authority has not held an election since 2006 and there are increasing encroachments on freedom of speech and of the press.

Mr. Carter concludes, “I fear for the spirit of Camp David.” Does that spirit consist of ignoring change, misstating facts, blaming Israel for every problem, and destabilizing the Middle East further by putting in its midst a new, weak, and impoverished state that oppresses its own population?

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former deputy national-security adviser.

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