Though not the most popular figure in Israel, due to his advocacy for
Palestinian statehood based on Israeli withdrawal from most of the territories
captured in the Six Day War, former US president Jimmy Carter continues to
return in the hope of being a pivotal figure in a peace treaty between Israel
and the Palestinians, as he was between Jerusalem and Cairo 33 years
Carter, accompanied by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland, called on President Shimon Peres on Sunday in the course of a visit
to Jerusalem, the West Bank and Cairo.
The two visitors expect to be
joined on Monday by former Irish president Mary Robinson. The three are
part of The Elders, an independent group of 10 global leaders, who were brought
together in 2007 by former South African president Nelson Mandela to work for
human rights and world peace. Current chairman of the Elders is Archbishop
emeritus Desmond Tutu, while Mandela still offers his opinion, but is not an
The Elders are in Israel to voice their concern about what
they consider to be the “imperiled” two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in light of Israel’s refusal to halt
settlement expansion. The Elders last visited Israel and the West Bank in
October 2010, when they also visited Gaza. They also visited Israel and the West
Bank in 2009.
Though known as The Elders, not all its members have
reached the proverbial three score and ten. Robinson is only 68, while
Brundtland is 72. Carter, 88, is 14 months younger than Peres, 89, almost to the
day. Peres was born on August 2, 1923, whereas Carter was born on October 1,
Carter entered the reception room at the President’s Residence with
a cheery “Hello everybody” to the media, while Brundtland greeted the press
corps in a more restrained fashion.
Peres and Carter, whose relations
spans more than three decades, fell into each other’s arms in a warm
embrace. “Jimmy, how are you?” Peres said with undisguised
pleasure. Then turning to Brundtland, whom he has also known for many
years, Peres told her that she looked great.
Carter said that he was
delighted to be with Peres again because he greatly admired him as both a
peacemaker and a dear friend.
The Elders are very concerned at the lack
of recent progress in the peace process but have not given up hope, Carter said.
They want to assess for themselves following talks with Israeli and Palestinian
leaders as well as with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi whether a two-state
solution is still viable and whether another solution should be proposed and
If it is going to be a one-state solution, said Carter, the
international community will have to take a different attitude than it has taken
Carter said that he has had frequent meetings with Morsi over
the past six to eight months – both before the latter was nominated for
president and following his election, and had impressed on him that he must keep
all the conditions of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Morsi agreed, although
he did want to make amendments. Carter told him that he could not make
any amendments without Israel’s agreement, and expressed confidence that Morsi
So far, Carter said, Morsi has abided by all the
conditions of the treaty.
Brundtland recalled having first met Peres in
1979 when she came to Israel as the young deputy leader of the Norwegian Labor
Party. At that time, Peres and Yitzhak Rabin were contesting the Labor Party
leadership – and Peres won. Brundtland said she had a long history of watching
Israel. Peres and noted that almost 20 years had passed since the signing of the
Oslo Accords, but regretted that the principles expressed in the accords had not
been pursued in the way that they should.
Peres said that in Israel one
doesn’t talk about elders without saying responsible elders. He commended
Carter for acting responsibly in accordance with his perspective of the
situation. Acknowledging differences of opinion between Carter and the
Israeli leadership, Peres said that without Carter the peace treaty with Egypt
would never have become a reality, and that this transcends all other
Peres also had positive things to say about Brundtland’s
“sharp and honest judgment.”
Looking back to another era, Peres said:
“Before the peace treaty with Egypt, before the peace treaty with Jordan, before
the peace process with the Palestinians, people were almost desperate and didn’t
know what would happen.” What was regarded as an impossible, project, he
continued, became a fact of life.
“What is important is to keep the peace
achievement intact,” he said, adding that peace with the Palestinians should
once again become a major issue on the Israeli agenda.
Carter was curious
about Israel’s upcoming elections, the outcome of which may affect, one way or
another, the peace process.
Carter was due to travel to Ramallah on
Monday for a lunchtime meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas, and on his return to Jerusalem to conduct a media conference at the
American Colony Hotel.
After that the Elders will fly to Cairo.