Carter: Israel backers demand 'subservience'
JTA News Service
Friday, 13 April 2007
Mideast peace is possible only with forceful U.S. engagement, former
President Carter said as he received an award for speaking out on
Carter -- whose recent book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,"
infuriated much of the Jewish community with its allegedly one-sided
presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- addressed some
400 people Wednesday in Washington as he received the Ridenhour
"History has shown that progress is possible only if the United
States of America assumes its historic role as honest broker between
Israel and her enemy," Carter said, lamenting what he described as a
six-year lapse in substantial peace efforts. "To play that essential
role, America must not be seen as in the pocket of either side."
Critics have said that by eschewing Clinton-era micromanagement of
the peace process, President Bush has allowed the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict to fester, feeding into other problems in the
region as well. Bush administration officials, noting the failure of
Clinton's peace efforts, have argued that the time is not ripe for a
final peace deal and that it's fruitless to push until the
Palestinians have made a decision to abandon terrorism in favor of
Carter says the Bush administration and pro-Israel agroups like the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee prevent Americans from
having a real debate on Mideast policy.
"The American friends of Israel, who demand such subservience, are
in many cases sincere and well-intentioned people; I know them,"
Carter said. "But on this crucial issue, they are tragically
mistaken. Their demands subvert America's ability to bring to Israel
what she most desperately needs, and wants -- peace and security
within recognized borders."
Carter received a standing ovation for his 25-minute speech, which
did not ignore the controversy around his most recent book.
"In the course of my life I have done these and other things that
have sometimes provoked controversy, and in some cases I must admit
that the criticisms may have been justified. But that would have to
be the subject of another and much longer speech," he said with a
smile, as audience members laughed.
In this instance, however, Carter maintained that the opinions
expressed in his book are in the best interests of Israelis,
Palestinians and Americans alike. In a later press conference, he
claimed that support for his book, including from what he said were
prominent Jews, was consistently at 79 or 80 percent.
Rabbi Leonard Beerman, founder of the Leo Baeck Temple in Los
Angeles and a member of committees such as the U.S. Interreligious
Committee for Peace in the Middle East, presented the award to
Carter, saying his career had been fashioned "out of a persistent
moral sensibility, even about the most sensitive and contentious
issues, such as the rights of the Palestinians, for example."
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