“America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace”
ATLANTA, April, 21, 2002, Wafa – Former US President Jimmy Carter
published an article in the NY Times Sunday, hereby are excerpts of the
In January 1996, with full support from Israel and responding to the
invitation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Carter Center
helped to monitor a democratic election in the West Bank and Gaza, which
was well organized, open and fair. In that election, 88 members were elected
to the Palestinian National Authority, with Yasser Arafat as president.
Legally and practically, the Palestinian people were encouraged to form their
own government, with the expectation that they would soon have full
sovereignty as a state.
When the election was over, I made a strong effort to persuade the leaders
of Hamas to accept the election results, with Mr. Arafat as their leader. I
relayed a message offering them full participation in the process of
developing a permanent constitutional framework for the new political
entity, but they refused to accept this proposal. Despite this rejection,
a time of peace and hope, and there was no threat of violence or even
peaceful demonstrations. The legal status of the Palestinian people has not
changed since then, but their plight has grown desperate.
Ariel Sharon is a strong and forceful man and has never equivocated
public declarations nor deviated from his ultimate purpose. His rejection of
all peace agreements that included Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands, his
invasion of Lebanon, his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the
destruction of villages and homes, the arrests of thousands of Palestinians
and his open defiance of President George W. Bush's demand that he
comply with international law have all been orchestrated to accomplish his
ultimate goals: to establish Israeli settlements as widely as possible
throughout occupied territories and to deny Palestinians a cohesive political
Tragically, the policies of Mr. Sharon have greatly strengthened criminal
elements, enhanced their popular support, and encouraged misguided young
men and women to sacrifice their own lives in attacking innocent Israeli
citizens. The abhorrent suicide bombings are also counterproductive in that
they discredit the Palestinian cause, help perpetuate the military occupation
and destruction of villages, and obstruct efforts toward peace and justice.
The situation is not hopeless. There is an ultimate avenue to peace in the
implementation of United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 242,
expressed most recently in the highly publicized proposal of Saudi Arabia's
Crown Prince Abdullah. The basic premises of these resolutions are
withdrawal of Israelis from Palestinian lands in exchange for full acceptance
of Israel and Israel's right to live in peace. This is a reasonable
many Israelis, having been accepted in 1978 by Prime Minister Menachem
Begin and ratified by the Israeli Knesset. Egypt, offering the greatest threat
to Israel, responded by establishing full diplomatic relations and honoring
Israeli rights, including unimpeded use of the Suez canal. This set a pattern
for what can and must be done by all other Arab nations.
East Jerusalem can be jointly administered with unimpeded access to
places, and the right of return can be addressed by permitting a limited
number of displaced Palestinians to return to their homeland with fair
compensation to others. It will be a good investment for the international
community to pay this cost.
With the ready and potentially unanimous backing of the international
community, the United States government can bring about such a solution to
the existing imbroglio. Demands on both sides should be so patently fair and
balanced that at least a majority of citizens in the affected area will
with approval, and an international force can monitor compliance with
agreed peace terms, as was approved for the Sinai region in 1979 following
Israel's withdrawal from Egyptian territory.
There are two existing factors that offer success to United States persuasion.
One is the legal requirement that American weapons are to be used by Israel
only for defensive purposes, a premise certainly being violated in the recent
destruction of Jenin and other villages. Richard Nixon imposed this
requirement to stop Ariel Sharon and Israel's military advance into Egypt in
the 1973 war, and I used the same demand to deter Israeli attacks on
Lebanon in 1979. (A full invasion was launched by Ariel Sharon after I left
office). The other persuasive factor is approximately $10 million daily in
American aid to Israel. President George Bush Sr. threatened this assistance
in 1992 to prevent the building of Israeli settlements between Jerusalem and
I understand the extreme political sensitivity in America of using persuasion
on the Israelis, but it is important to remember that none of the actions
toward peace would involve an encroachment on the sovereign territory of
Israel. They all involve lands of the Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians, as
recognized by international law.
The existing situation is tragic and likely to get worse. Normal diplomatic
efforts have failed. It is time for the United States, as the sole recognized
intermediary, to consider more forceful action for peace. The rest of the
world will welcome this leadership.
Jimmy Carter, the former president, is chairman of the Carter Center,
works worldwide to advance peace and human health.