Former US president Jimmy Carter has many positive traits. He deserves much of the praise he has garnered over a lifetime in the public eye that culminated with his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. We Israelis will be forever indebted to him for forging the peace agreement with Egypt. His Habitat for Humanity project has been remarkably successful. Finally, his efforts at peacekeeping in different regions of the world demonstrate a genuine commitment to reconciling differences between peoples and nations.
Richard Goldstone is a most respected jurist. A South African, he vigorously opposed apartheid. He served as chief prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. Because he is considered meticulously impartial, he was asked to chair the UN Human Rights Council that examined the war in Gaza.
However, despite Carter's and Goldstone's extensive backgrounds in problem-solving, when it comes to applying balanced standards to Middle East diplomacy, they are not just self-righteous moralists, but ineffectual politicians. Both men have proven to be naÃ¯ve, ignorant or, in Carter's case, just plain mean-spirited.
GOLDSTONE SHOULD never have headed up the UN investigation of the Gaza war. It is not that his report is so inaccurate. There are aspects of the inquiry that rightfully take Israel to task - although its accusations that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity are completely out of proportion to the new reality of a country defending itself against a bunch of terrorist thugs who subscribe to the rule of the jungle over the rule of law.
But Goldstone, a Jew, must have known that his Jewishness would be used against the Jewish people. Ironically, Goldstone found himself criticizing the one-sided UN resolution that condemned only Israel - in contradistinction to the findings of the inquiry - when it voted to accept the report and begin the process of sending it to the International Court at The Hague. Did Goldstone not realize that such a distortion of the report would be promulgated by the Arab nations, whose leaders would emphasize that Goldstone is a Jew - and would unabashedly say: "Look what Goldstone the Jew, who authored the report, says about Israel's actions"? His present US speaking tour only exacerbates the situation.
Not to be undone - and not unexpectedly - Jimmy Carter weighed in with his full support of the Goldstone report, especially its criticism of Israel. Carter tells us that Hamas has announced that it has initiated an independent investigation into its actions, just as Goldstone wanted. No one else has heard about Hamas examining itself, particularly since it completely rejects the Goldstone Report's criticism of its conduct during the war. However, Carter, as he wrote in an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune, takes Hamas at its word. Even if one were to assume the impossible - that Hamas would investigate itself - does any sane individual truly believe that an objective report would ever emanate from Hamas? This is not just foolhardy, it is pure idiocy.
Carter also condemns Israel for the ongoing blockade of Gaza, with no mention of its legitimate concerns over arms smuggling, even in the wake of the seizure of a ship filled with weapons headed to Gaza, which included long-range missiles. And what about the Egyptian closure of the passages between Gaza and Egypt? But Carter counters by insisting that Israel end the blockade immediately, because by doing so Saudi Arabia will pledge $1 billion in aid to the Gazans, and other Arab nations will pledge an additional $300 million, with a guarantee that the aid will bypass Hamas operatives and be delivered directly to those in need. Carter reassures us that "officials both in Gaza and Syria have assured me that they would accept this arrangement."
Does Carter actually believe a promise from Syria, a brutal dictatorship that has systematically violated the UN resolution forbidding arms shipments to Hizbullah and constructed a secret nuclear plant virtually in Israel's backyard? With all the commitments over the years by Arab countries to send financial aid to the Palestinians, rarely have they followed through, causing the Palestinians to complain bitterly. Indeed, since 1948 the Arab world has done little to help the Palestinians, particularly the refugees, preferring to use them as political pawns to divert world attention from their own internecine conflicts and their dictatorial regimes.
IT IS not difficult to understand why Carter was a one-term president. His weak response to the takeover of Iran by religious clerics, led by the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, helped to bring down the pro-Western shah. However repressive the shah's reign, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government is every bit as oppressive.
Carter failed in his attempt to free the hundreds of American hostages who were held in the desert by the then new fanatic religious leaders in Iran because he insisted on the US army being "delicate" in the rescue operation. Neither Carter nor Goldstone understands that delicacy is not a responsible policy in dealing with terrorists. Applying conventional rules of engagement when battling terrorists is neither practical nor virtuous.
Had Carter responded forcefully, the international situation might have looked quite different today, and perhaps Iranian threats would not be rattling the entire world order. Had Goldstone not placed Israel on an equal footing with Hamas, whose sole purpose (with full support from Iran) was and is to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible, terrorists in every corner of the world would not be emboldened.
No matter what elements of truth there are in the Goldstone Report, to characterize aberrant behavior on the part of some IDF soldiers as war crimes and crimes against humanity is not just unfair but injurious to any nation that has to confront terrorism. For Carter to jump on Goldstone's bandwagon strikes one as his need to assuage his guilt for being so wrongheaded back in the 1980s. He wants to justify his kid-glove approach to the hostage crisis by attacking Israel's bold response to Hamas's continual bombing of its citizens.
The truth is quite the opposite. Carter would have served America's and the world's interests much better had he imitated Israel's actions in Gaza and been resolute in dealing with the feudal rogues in Iran. The same is true for Goldstone. He should have emphasized the need to deal forthrightly with terrorism.
Since experience of what goes on in our part of the world has taught Carter and Goldstone nothing, one would have hoped that reasoning would have entered their thought processes. Instead, mutual stupidity has unfortunately been their guide.