excerpt from the book
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
by former President Jimmy Carter
Chapter 17 - Summary
Since the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was signed in 1979, much
blood has been shed unnecessarily and repeated efforts for a negotiated
peace between Israel and her neighbors have failed. Despite its
criticism from some Arab sources, this treaty stands as proof
that diplomacy can bring lasting peace between ancient adversaries.
Although disparities among them are often emphasized, the 1974
Israeli-Syrian withdrawal agreement, the 1978 Camp David Accords,
the Reagan statement of 1982, the 1993 Oslo Agreement, the treaty
between Israel and Jordan in 1994, the Arab peace proposal of
2002, the 2003 Geneva Initiative, and the International Quartet's
Roadmap all contain key common elements that can be consolidated
if pursued in good faith.
There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the
1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and
colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation
and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians;
2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs
to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis
In turn, Israel responds with retribution and oppression, and
militant Palestinians refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel
and vow to destroy the nation. The cycle of distrust and violence
is sustained, and efforts for peace are frustrated. Casualties
have been high as the occupying forces impose ever tighter controls.
From September 2000 until March 2006, 3,982 Palestinians and 1,084
Israelis were killed in the second intifada, and these numbers
include many children: 708 Palestinians and 123 Israelis. As indicated
earlier, there was an ever-rising toll of dead and wounded from
the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza and Lebanon.
The only rational response to this continuing tragedy is to revitalize
the peace process through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,
but the United States has, in effect, abandoned this effort. It
may be that one of the periodic escalations in violence will lead
to strong influence being exerted from the International Quartet
to implement its Roadmap for Peace. These are the key requirements:
a. The security of Israel must be guaranteed. The Arabs must acknowledge
openly and specifically that Israel is a reality and has a right
to exist in peace, behind secure and recognized borders, and with
a firm Arab pledge to terminate any further acts of violence against
the legally constituted nation of Israel.
b. The internal debate within Israel must be resolved in order
to define Israel's permanent legal boundary. The unwavering official
policy of the United States since Israel became a state has been
that its borders must coincide with those prevailing from 1949
until 1967 (unless modified by mutually agreeable land swaps),
specified in the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, which
mandates Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories. This obligation
was reconfirmed by Israel's leaders in agreements negotiated in
1978 at Camp David and in 1993 at Oslo, for which they received
the Nobel Peace Prize, and both of these commitments were officially
ratified by the Israeli government. Also, as a member of the International
Quartet that includes Russia, the United Nations, and the European
Union, America supports the Roadmap for Peace, which espouses
exactly the same requirements. Palestinian leaders unequivocally
accepted this proposal, but Israel has officially rejected its
key provisions with unacceptable caveats and prerequisites.
Despite these recent developments, it is encouraging that Israel
has made previous commitments to peace as confirmed by the Camp
David Accords, the withdrawal of its forces from the Sinai, the
more recent movement of settlers from Gaza, and its official endorsement
of pertinent U.N. resolutions establishing its legal borders.
After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli military forces occupied
all of the territory indicated on Map 4, but joined the United
States and other nations in supporting United Nations Resolution
242, which is still the binding law that condemns the acquisition
of land by force and requires Israeli withdrawal from occupied
c. The sovereignty of all Middle East
nations and sanctity of international borders must be honored.
There is little doubt that accommodation with Palestinians can
bring full Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in
peace, with an Arab commitment to restrain further violence initiated
by extremist Palestinians.
The overriding problem is that, for more
than a quarter century, the actions of some Israeli leaders have
been in direct conflict with the official policies of the United
States, the international community, and their own negotiated
agreements. Regardless of whether Palestinians had no formalized
government, one headed by Yasir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or one
with Abbas as president and Hamas controlling the parliament and
cabinet, Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian
land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace
agreement in the Holy Land. In order to perpetuate the occupation,
Israeli forces have deprived their unwilling subjects of basic
human rights. No objective person could personally observe existing
conditions in the West Bank and dispute these statements.
Two other interrelated factors have contributed
to the perpetuation of violence and regional upheaval: the condoning
of illegal Israeli actions from a submissive White House and U.S.
Congress during recent years, and the deference with which other
international leaders permit this unofficial U.S. policy in the
Middle East to prevail. There are constant and vehement political
and media debates in Israel concerning its policies in the West
Bank, but because of powerful political, economic, and religious
forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are
rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate
in our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances
in the occupied territories. At the same time, political leaders
and news media in Europe are highly critical of Israeli policies,
affecting public attitudes. Americans were surprised and angered
by an opinion poll, published by the International Herald Tribune
in October 2003, of 7,500 citizens in fifteen European nations,
indicating that Israel was considered to be the top threat to
world peace, ahead of North Korea, Iran, or Afghanistan.
The United States has used its U.N. Security
Council veto more than forty times to block resolutions critical
of Israel. Some of these vetoes have brought international discredit
on the United States, and there is little doubt that the lack
of a persistent effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major
source of anti-American sentiment and terrorist activity throughout
the Middle East and the Islamic world.
A new factor in the region is that the Palestinian election of
January 2006 gave Hamas members control of the parliament and
a cabinet headed by the prime minister. Israel and the United
States reacted by announcing a policy of isolating and destabilizing
the new government. Elected officials are denied travel permits
to participate in parliamentary affairs, Gaza is effectively isolated,
and every effort is made to block humanitarian funds to Palestinians,
to prevent their right to employment or commercial trade, and
to deny them access to Israel and the outside world.
In order to achieve its goals, Israel
has decided to avoid any peace negotiations and to escape even
the mild restraints of the United States by taking unilateral
action, called "convergence" or "realignment,"
to carve out for itself the choice portions of the West Bank,
leaving Palestinians destitute within a small and fragmented remnant
of their own land. The holding of almost 10,000 Arab prisoners
and the destructive military response to the capture of three
Israeli soldiers have aroused global concern about the hair-trigger
possibility of a regional war being launched.
Despite these immediate challenges, we
must not assume that the future is hopeless. Down through the
years I have seen despair and frustration evolve into optimism
and progress and, even now, we must not abandon efforts to achieve
permanent peace for Israelis and freedom and justice for Palestinians.
There are some positive factors on which we may rely.
As I said in a 1979 speech to the Israeli
Knesset, "The people support a settlement. Political leaders
are the obstacles to peace." Over the years, public opinion
surveys have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis favor
withdrawing from Palestinian territory in exchange for peace ("swapping
land for peace"), and recent polls show that 80 percent of
Palestinians still want a two-state peace agreement with Israel,
with nearly 70 percent supporting the moderate Mahmoud Abbas as
their president and spokesman.
There have been some other encouraging
developments over the years. Along with the awareness among most
Israelis that a solution to the Palestinian question is critical
if there is ever to be a comprehensive settlement, there is a
growing recognition in the Arab world that Israel is an unchanging
reality. Most Palestinians and other Arabs maintain that the proposal
made by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, a proposal approved at the
Arab summit in 2002 (Appendix 6), is a public acknowledgment of
Israel's right to exist within its legal borders and shows willingness
to work out disputes that have so far not been addressed directly.
The Delphic wording of this statement was deliberate, in Arabic
as well as in Hebrew and English, but the Arabs defend it by saying
it is there to be explored by the Israelis and others and that,
in any case, it is a more positive and clear commitment to international
law than anything now coming from Israel.
Furthermore, the remaining differences
and their potential resolution are clearly defined. Both Israel
and the Arab countries have endorsed the crucial and unavoidable
U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, under which peace agreements have
already been evolved.
Here are two voices, one Palestinian and
the other Israeli, with remarkably similar assessments of what
needs to be done.
Jonathan Kuttab, Palestinian human rights
lawyer: "Everybody knows what it will take to achieve a permanent
and lasting peace that addresses the basic interests of both sides:
It's a two-state solution. It's withdrawal to 1967 borders. It's
dismantlement of the settlements. It's some kind of shared status
for a united Jerusalem, the capital of both parties. The West
Bank and Gaza would have to be demilitarized to remove any security
threats to Israel. Some kind of solution would have to be reached
for the refugee problem, some qualified right of return, with
compensation. Everyone knows the solution; the question is: Is
there political will to implement it?"
Dr. Naomi Chazan, professor at Hebrew
University and former deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset: "I
don't think any difference now remains between the majority of
Israelis and Palestinians in understanding that there has to be
some kind of accommodation between both people. There are two
possibilities on how to do it. To acknowledge and then to implement
the Palestine right to self-determination, and to make sure that
the two-state solution is a just and fair solution, allowing for
the creation of a viable state alongside Israel on the 1967 boundaries,
and if there are any changes, they are by agreement on a swap
basis. And on the Israeli side, there is the need to maintain
a democratic state with a Jewish majority, which can only be achieved
through the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel."
An important fact to remember is that
President Mahmoud Abbas retains all presidential authority that
was exercised by Yasir Arafat when he negotiated the Oslo Agreement,
and the Hamas prime minister has stated that his government supports
peace talks between Israel and Abbas. He added that Hamas would
modify its rejection of Israel if there is a negotiated agreement
that Palestinians can approve (as specified in the Camp David
Accords). It is imperative that the general Arab community and
all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will
end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international
laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted
One promising development came in May
2006 when Marwan Barghouti, the most popular and influential leader
of Fatah, joined forces in an Israeli prison with Abed al-Halak
Natashe, a trusted spokesman for Hamas, in endorsing a two-state
proposal that could unite the two Palestinian factions. Their
influence is enormous. The prisoners' proposal called for a unity
government with Hamas joining the PLO, the release of all political
prisoners, acceptance of Israel as a neighbor within its legal
borders, and an end to violent acts within Israel (but not in
Palestinian territory). It endorsed the key U.N. resolutions regarding
legal borders and the right of return.
With public opinion polls indicating a
77 percent rate of approval, President Abbas first proposed a
referendum among Palestinians on the prisoners' proposal, and
then both Hamas and Fatah accepted its provisions.
Although a clear majority of Israelis
are persistently willing to accept terms that are tolerable to
most of their Arab neighbors, it is clear that none of the options
is attractive for all Israelis:
A forcible annexation of Palestine and
its legal absorption into Israel, which could give large numbers
of non-Jewish citizens the right to vote and live as equals under
the law. This would directly violate international standards and
the Camp David Accords, which are the basis for peace with Egypt.
At the same time, non-Jewish citizens would make up a powerful
swing vote if other Israelis were divided and would ultimately
constitute an outright majority in the new Greater Israel. Israel
would be further isolated and condemned by the international community,
with no remaining chance to end hostilities with any appreciable
part of the Arab world.
A system of apartheid, with two peoples
occupying the same land but completely separated from each other,
with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving
Palestinians of their basic human rights. This is the policy now
being followed, although many citizens of Israel deride the racist
connotation of prescribing permanent second-class status for the
Palestinians. As one prominent Israeli stated, "I am afraid
that we are moving toward a government like that of South Africa,
with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arab subjects with few
rights of citizenship. The West Bank is not worth it." An
unacceptable modification of this choice, now being proposed,
is the taking of substantial portions of the occupied territory,
with the remaining Palestinians completely surrounded by walls,
fences, and Israeli checkpoints, living as prisoners within the
small portion of land left to them.
Withdrawal to the 1967 border as specified
in U.N. Resolution 242 and as promised in the Camp David Accords
and the Oslo Agreement and prescribed in the Roadmap of the International
Quartet. This is the most attractive option and the only one that
can ultimately be acceptable as a basis for peace. Good-faith
negotiations can lead to mutually agreeable exchanges of land,
perhaps permitting a significant number of Israeli settlers to
remain in their present homes near Jerusalem. One version of this
choice was spelled out in the Geneva Initiative.
The bottom line is this: Peace will come
to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government
is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap
for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a
majority of its own citizens?and honor its own previous commitments?by
accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to
honor Israel's right to live in peace under these conditions.
The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill
and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially
condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization
of Palestinian territories.
It will be a tragedy - for the Israelis,
the Palestinians, and the world - if peace is rejected and a system
of oppression, apartheid, and sustained violence is permitted