(photo credit: AP [file])
An international group of veteran statesmen said Tuesday that it will send a delegation including former US president Jimmy Carter and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip next month.
The Elders group said it wants to support Israelis and Palestinians seeking peace. The delegation, led by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, was set to arrive in late August to meet young Israelis and Palestinians, community organizers, business leaders and others "who are working hard for peaceful coexistence."
The Elders was founded in 2007 by former South African president Nelson Mandela with the declared aim of backing peace efforts and attempting to alleviate suffering worldwide.
Carter last visited the region in mid-June, during which time Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a major policy speech. Carter said then that Netanyahu had created new obstacles to peace in his statements regarding settlement expansion and his demand that the Palestinian recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
He nevertheless stressed that the differences between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu could be overcome. "I have to say that in spite of the differences between my president, Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, greater differences existed between myself and then-prime minister Begin," he said.
During his visit Carter spoke to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and toured Gush Etzion, which he said he'd always envisioned as remaining part of Israel in any future deal.
Tutu in March called for an inquiry into alleged breaches of international law during Operation Cast Lead, by both sides.