Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want a two- state solution, former US president Jimmy Carter charged on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is committed to convening a meeting of Palestinian factions to establish a unified forum for decision-making and ultimately holding long-delayed elections, Carter said.
“The Elders have never in all the years met with Prime Minister Netanyahu or his cabinet,” Carter told a news conference at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, sitting next to former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. “In the past we have not been allowed to do so, and this time we just thought it would be a waste of time to ask.”
The Elders, composed of a dozen former world leaders, is an international NGO of elder statesmen former South African president Nelson Mandela brought together in 2007. They describe themselves as “independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights.” The delegation was in the area for three days.
Carter slammed Netanyahu for opposing a two-state solution during the election campaign.
“I don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu desires to have the same goal achieved that all American presidents and secretaries of state have advocated, and that is a two-state solution,” he said. “I think he made that quite clear during the campaign, that as long as he’s in charge, there will be no two-state solution, and therefore no Palestinian state,” Carter said, adding that this was why “the very noble effort” by Secre tary of State John Kerry to bring the parties back to the negotiating table had been unsuccessful.
Carter said he did not think personal strains between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama were crucial, but rather their different outlooks.
“I don’t think the important thing is the personal incompatibility between the two men,” he said. “I think it’s a matter of President Obama recognizing... that he and the Netanyahu government have a completely different concept about what would be the best avenue toward peace. President Obama follows the policy that every president has followed since I’ve been in politics, that a two-state solution is best. And my conviction is, and I would imagine that many people in America would agree, that Netanyahu does not now, and has not really ever, sincerely believed in a two- state solution with a Palestinian state alongside Israel, both living in peace.”
The former US president urged European countries to take a more constructive role in pushing for a two-state solution.
“The end of occupation and settlement expansion that a two-state outcome implies is, in our view, the best guarantee of Israel’s future security and acceptance by its neighbors,” he said. “To help achieve this goal, we feel it is high time that the countries of Europe take a more proactive role, underpinned by a serious financial commitment to assist in Gaza’s reconstruction.”
The Elders issued a statement saying that “the situation in Gaza is unsustainable and intolerable.”
“A complete paradigm shift is essential,” the statement said. “The shift demands the lifting of the siege. It also requires an end to Israel’s policy of separating the West Bank and Gaza.”
Carter met in Ramallah on Saturday with Abbas and called for elections in the Palestinian territories. Holding elections would be an important step for the Palestinians, the former US president said. Carter praised the current PA leadership for its “wisdom,” saying he came to Ramallah to represent the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinians.
“That’s why we hope to see Palestinian elections in the future,” he said. “We also discussed the recent [reconciliation] agreement between Hamas and Fatah.”
Carter said that he would make a big effort to ensure the implementation of the Hamas-Fatah accord, which was signed in April last year.
Abbas “committed to convene the Interim Leadership Framework, including the Executive Committee of the PLO and representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Carter said. “This should provide a sorely needed forum for inclusive deci - sion-making between PLO and non-PLO factions. The Elders believe this would be a significant step forward.”
Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 was at the head of international observers who monitored the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election that Hamas won.
Abbas, for his part, briefed Carter on the latest developments surrounding the peace process.
The PA president complained that Israel was failing to abide by international resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
He called on international donors to fulfill their pledge to fund the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge last summer.
Abbas stressed the need to end the Hamas-Fatah dispute in order to pave the way for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and holding long overdue elections for president and parliament.
Carter had been scheduled to visit the Gaza Strip for talks with Hamas leaders. However, the visit was called off at the last minute. Some reports in Palestinian media suggested that the visit was canceled at the request of the PA leadership out of fear that it would legitimize the Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Carter said members of The Elders had in the past held talks with President Reuven Rivlin, “but this time he decided for political considerations not to meet with us. We regret that very much.”
He said, however, that they had met with former president Shimon Peres as well as a delegation of prominent peace activists, mostly former diplomats.
“They expressed to us the belief that the majority of the population of Israel firmly believes that peace is best for Israel, with a two-state solution,” Carter said.
The Elders delegation also traveled to southern Israel during their stay, visiting Kibbutz Nir Am on the border with Gaza, and were pleased to hear that residents were ready to live in peace with the people of Gaza.
“They believe that the people and children in Gaza also have the same rights as they and their children have to live in harmonious communities and feel secure in their lives with their families,” Brundtland said. “So it made an impression to hear these people express these views and share them with us. We were moved by their experiences of war, and even more by their passionate desire to live once more in peace with their Palestinian neighbors