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(photo credit: AP)
Israel must stop building settlements in the West Bank if peace is ever to be achieved in the Middle East, former President Jimmy Carter said Monday night as he received an award at a Virginia university for his humanitarian efforts.
"As [US] President Barack Obama has made clear, the key factor that prevents peace is the continuing building of Israeli settlements in Palestine, driven by a determined minority of Israelis who desire to occupy and colonize east Jerusalem and the West Bank," Carter said.
Carter, a Nobel Peace laureate, spoke to a crowd of 6,500 as he and former first lady Rosalynn Carter received an award from James Madison University's Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence.
Carter said he is convinced that withdrawal of Israeli forces from Arab territories will dramatically reduce any threats to Israel.
"All 22 Arab countries have offered diplomatic recognition and full trade and commerce if Israel will withdraw from occupied territories," he said.
And withdrawal is necessary, Carter said.
"The alternative to two states is one nation in the same area, within which Arabs will soon comprise a clear majority," he said. "This will mean the end of a Jewish state or else an apartheid system within which Palestinians are dominated and deprived of equal rights."