Former US president Jimmy Carter.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former US president Jimmy Carter, a frequent and caustic critic of Israel, joined a host of others this week in trying to lobby US President Barack Obama to take one final, dramatic step on the Middle East before leaving office in 52 days.
Carter, in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, called on Obama to recognize a Palestinian state.
“I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short,” wrote Carter, who in 1978 helped broker an Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, and in 2006 helped legitimize the use of the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel with the publication of his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.
“The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on January 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,” he wrote.
Carter argued that a US recognition of “Palestine” would make it easier for other countries to do the same, and would “clear the way for a Security Council resolution on the future of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”
Obama urges Israel end occupation and Palestinians accept Israel
He said the Security Council should pass a resolution laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict, “reaffirming the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications.”
Such a resolution should include security guarantees for both Israel and a Palestinian state, the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and a “”possible peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations.”
As Carter’s criticism of Israel over the years has become increasingly scathing and one-sided, Jerusalem’s policy has been to largely ignore him. In line with this approach, neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry had any response on Tuesday to his op-ed.
Carter’s critics have often said that he is “obsessed” with Israel, and that as a result of this obsession he overlooked as president the radical changes taking place in Iran that led to the fall of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic Republic under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, something that radically altered the Middle East landscape.
“The primary foreign policy goal of my life has been to help bring peace to Israel and its neighbors,” Carter wrote in his New York Times piece.
In October, the Times
also called on Obama to back a UN Security Council resolution
that would lay down guidelines for a peace agreement.
Israel adamantly opposes such a move, saying that an agreement cannot be imposed from the outside, but must come out of direct negotiations between the parties.
A UN resolution, Jerusalem believes, would only harden the Palestinian positions, because they would believe that if they wait long enough, the world will force Israel to give them what they want.
A number of European governments, as well as various think tanks, are talking with Obama administration officials, urging them to take some kind of action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the waning days of the current presidency.
Among the suggestions are a new UN resolution laying down parameters for a peace deal; US support for the recognition of “Palestine” in the UN; or – at the very least – backing or abstaining on an anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council.
Israeli officials consistently maintain that they do not know what – if anything – Obama has planned. However, the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continuously says – as he did on Sunday – that he expects Obama not to divert from traditional US policy on the matter, is an indication that there remains concern over the matter in Jerusalem.
For instance, on Sunday, at a memorial ceremony at Mount Herzl for soldiers killed in the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Netanyahu said, “I expect that in the twilight of President Obama’s tenure he will stand by what he said in 2011, that the way to achieve peace does not run through Security Council resolutions, but rather direct negotiations with the Palestinians, which has been the US position for years.”