Former US president Jimmy Carter and a delegation of influential international
figures on a tour of the Middle East said they had “low expectations” for the
current peace process on Thursday in Jerusalem, after meeting in the past week
with leaders in Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Jordan, the West Bank and
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“There is little faith among Palestinian or Israelis over the
peace process,” said Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former
UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. In many of their conversations, she
said, “We have come up against skepticism, a skepticism that is
“We, The Elders, fear the possibility of two state solution
may be fading away, and may be lost, because of what is happening in Jerusalem,”
The Elders is the name of the group of world leaders who
offer their “collective influence and experience” to support peace-building
The delegation also met with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin
and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday. Rivlin denounced the Elders’
meetings with Hamas leaders, including senior Hamas official Khaled Mashaal and
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. He told Carter that Israelis see him as
Robinson defended the group’s decision to meet with
“We did, as we have before, talk to those who are excluded
at the moment from the peace process, because we feel it’s important that they
feel encouraged in a non-violent way to be part of the process,” she told The
. “We’re charged with the responsibility to listen to those who don’t normally get
The Elders also advocated the division of Jerusalem during a tour
of the city’s Silwan neighborhood.
“We don’t have any authority, but we
do have a voice,” Carter said, as he met with Arab residents in Silwan. “And
we’ll ask them to continue working towards a peace and a division between east
and west Jerusalem... because east Jerusalem should be a Palestinian capital
only under Palestinian control.”
Barkat slammed the
“No divided city in the world has ever succeeded,” he said in
a statement. “In fact, I asked the Elders how they can celebrate the
reunification of Berlin while at the same time advocate the division of
Jerusalem. It is the ultimate inconsistency.”
The Elders group was
founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. This is members’ second visit to the region,
following a shorter visit in August 2009.
The Middle East delegation
included Carter; Robinson; Ela Bhatt, a women’s rights activist in India, and
Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian independence fighter and politician. Brahimi did
not join in the Jerusalem portion of the tour. Other Elders include Kofi Annan,
Desmond Tutu and honorary member Aung An Suu Kyi.
In Syria on Tuesday,
Carter called for Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
delegation also condemned a number of local initiatives, including the mayor’s
King’s Garden plan for the redevelopment of Silwan’s Al-Bustan neighborhood and
the loyalty oath.
During the tour of Silwan, the delegation spoke with
Aida Rishek, a mother of seven who said she lives in fear of eviction because of
the King’s Garden Plan.
But the municipality claims that Rishek does not
face eviction. “Aida Rishek is a perfect example of the type of resident who
will be able to become legalized under the new plan,” said the mayor’s
spokesman, Elie Isaacson.
The King’s Garden plan calls for retroactively
legalizing 66 buildings in the Al-Bustan neighborhood and demolishing and
rebuilding 22 buildings in the same neighborhood.
When pressed about
Silwan, Robinson denounced the use of violence, but stopped short of condemning
the youths involved in a recent upsurge in stone throwing incidents in Silwan
and east Jerusalem. In the past month, youths have been responsible for daily
rock throwing episodes in east Jerusalem and Silwan in particular.
condemn violent acts. I don’t condemn non-violent resistance,” she told the
She blamed the stone throwing on the harassment by private security
forces guarding Jewish residences in the predominantly Arab
“My people, the Irish people, struggled for nonviolent
resistance,” she said. “I believe there is a right to resist where the power is
on the other side and your story is that you’re occupied.”
about the Elders’ efforts to reach captured soldier Gilad Schalit and said Hamas
officials are “very glad” that a German negotiator has returned to the scene,
despite remaining disagreements over the official list of prisoners to be
released or deportation orders for released prisoners.
“They claim to be
very eager to have an agreement,” he said.
Carter said it has been his
personal mission for the past 35 years to bring peace to the region. An
independent group like the Elders can be effective in the region because it is
not a government movement, he explained.
“We don’t have constituents to
answer to, and we’re not looking for public office,” Carter said. “We can go and
meet with some people who our own governments won’t meet.”
remained skeptical about the usefulness of the group.
“It is clear to me
that involvement of biased third parties in the peace process does more damage
than good,” he said after meeting the Elders on Thursday. “It pressures both
sides to rush into a bad deal.”