The worst former President: Jimmy Carter Sticks his Nose in Again

A guest post by AKUS

If there is one American who could justifiably be considered to be as obsessed with Israel as the Guardian’s editorial group, it is former US President Jimmy Carter. Like a mosquito bite he can never quite reach to scratch, and like the Guardian, the issue keeps him coming back, and back, and back, each time it seems from a position more removed from any comprehension of the reality in which Israel has to operate.

His latest effort, which I would not be surprised to see appear on CiF where it is virtually guaranteed a flood of anti-Israel cheerleading, appeared in the Washington Post for Wednesday, May 4th headlined on the web: Support the Palestinian unity government while in the print edition the rosy headline reads: “A Partnership that could bring Mideast peace”. I venture to suggest that if he were not so firmly in the Hamas camp, Arabs would deride the article as yet another marvelous example of “orientalism”, where Carter unconsciously makes it clear that the Palestinians, hapless victims of circumstances beyond their control, cannot accomplish anything without the help of what he refers to as “the United States and the international community” (which rather puts the US outside the “international community”, I suppose).

In Carter’s view, the Palestinians, even with the help of the Egyptians, cannot succeed nor stop them from attacking Israel without the world’s benign help:

If the United States and the international community support this effort, they can help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that can make a secure peace with Israel. If they remain aloof or undermine the agreement, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory may deteriorate with a new round of violence against Israel. Support for the interim government is critical, and the United States needs to take the lead.

Is there any other group aspiring to national identity which he would claim can only achieve its goals if America provides a helping hand? Of course, the helping hand has been aided by a boot in the backside to Israel, cheerfully provided by Mr. Cameron of the UK, who incredibly has demanded that Israel engage in discussions with the Palestinians rather than demanding that the Palestinians actually appear at the negotiating table. Carter arrogantly forgets that it is the Palestinians who will have to establish their democracy and the results of the previous effort are far from promising. Furthermore, if they cannot come together, it is interesting that he sees the alternative as “a new round of violence against Israel”? Are those the choices the Palestinians have?

Next, Carter makes the absolutely fallacious leap that “This accord should be viewed as a Palestinian contribution to the “Arab awakening,” as well as a deep wish to heal internal divisions.” Neither is true.

Far from being a “contribution to the Arab awakening”, the best one could say is that the accord is a consequence of the changes in Egypt that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to within grasping distance of the reins of government there and the diametrically opposite turn of events in Syria. The accord has been driven by Hamas’ realization that it may well be losing its base in Damascus because they foolishly backed the Muslim Brotherhood against Assad (the classic Palestinian mistake of seeing the world as they wish it were, rather than as it is, that has been going on for over a hundred years).  With a key connection to its Iranian sponsors potentially gone, Hamas feels the need to shore up its position with its neighbor Egypt, where the Brotherhood has been demanding the abrogation of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. As for “healing internal divisions”, there has been adequate coverage of the various responses by both sides to cast doubt on the ability of the accord between Hamas and Fatah to survive for long.

But it is towards the end of his article that Carter particularly displays the naiveté and bias that so permeates his views of the conflict as he lays out his vision for a rosy future.

He first makes the incredible assumption that “a unity government of technocrats — i.e., neither Fatah nor Hamas” will be appointed. If not members of Fatah and Hamas – who?  That question goes unanswered.  Then he assumes that Hamas will abide by an agreement that “Security will be overseen by a committee set up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and Egypt will assist.” Readers are now expected to believe that Hamas, which has spent the better part of a decade killing Fatah at every turn, will suddenly agree to cast their fate in with a security apparatus heeded by arch-enemy till yesterday Abu Mazen. How will Egypt assist this? Does he really think that Israel will allow Egyptian forces into Gaza in violation of the Sadat-Begin agreement and into the West Bank?

Carter then jumps to the conclusion that “Abu Mazen will be able to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians.” This completely ignores the fact that Abu Mazen has refused to negotiate with Israel at all since Netanyahu’s government was formed. There is no reason at all to expect that he will in the future, especially since Britain’s Prime Minister has virtually assured Abu Mazen that if he does NOT negotiate with Israel, Britain will blame Israel and support the Palestinian attempt to get approval for a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN in September.

Moreover, Carter seems to be assuming that if there are elections, Abu Mazen will emerge the leader. But what if it is Haniyah who has sworn never to negotiate with Israel? How will Israel have to react on the West Bank if Hamas’ rockets and mortars start raining down on Israel from there? What will Carter’s response be when Israel declares war on a new Palestinian state or state-to-be that attacks it daily with rockets and mortars?

Carter is not quite done praising the accord. Realizing that many might point out that Hamas has refused to negotiate with Israel, has refused to accept the idea of a two-state solution, and refuses to even accept the continued existence of the State of Israel, Carter plays his trump card:

In my talks with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, he said Hamas would accept a two-state agreement that is approved in a Palestinian referendum. Such an agreement could provide mutual recognition — Israel would recognize an independent Palestinian state and Palestine would recognize Israel. In other words, an agreement will include Hamas’s recognition of Israel.

There are three problems with this declaration by Carter. Netanyahu has already agreed to recognize a peaceful Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as the Jewish Homeland, while all the Palestinian leaders have refused to make the reciprocal statement. Then there is not a sign of such a statement made in public by Khaled Meshal. Lastly, Carter overlooks the fact that he is only a former President who has no standing whatsoever in the conflict. Whatever Carter thinks Meshal told him has no bearing on the actual intentions of Hamas. We are too familiar with the old trick of saying one thing in English for Western consumption and another in Arabic for the home audience to take this statement at face value. The statement is so absolutely typical of the naïve Westerner that one does not know whether to laugh or cry. But I am pretty sure that Meshal had a good laugh when he read it.

Perhaps Carter does vaguely understand this, after all, when he notes that:

Suspicions of Hamas stem from its charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction. I find the charter repugnant.

Indeed. But like our friends at the Guardian might do, he hastens to point out the bright side:

Yet it is worth remembering that Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization while its charter had similar provisions. It took five more years before the PLO Charter was altered.

The old “just because they say it does not imply that they really mean it” trick. And, yes, we really needed to be reminded of the wonderful outcomes associated with the disastrous Oslo agreements – the intifadas, suicide bombings, rockets, murders of whole families in their sleep, and so forth.

In the end, I come back to the beginning – my distaste for this meddler’s hubris. Carter cannot accept that it is the Palestinians who have to determine where their future lies and how it can be achieved, not the US, or the Quartet, or Israel, with Carter carefully guiding them along the path like an elderly shepherd as he oversees yet another disastrous election. It is irrelevant what the US or Israel thinks. If the Palestinians really want a united Gazan-West Bank identity, they will have to figure out how to achieve it themselves and create a meaningful identity. I actually doubt the Hamas and Fatah do want this unity even if the man in the street does, but in any event, if they do, nothing Carter, the US, the “international community” or Israel can do can prevent it. And if they do not really want unity, and the Bin Laden-praising murderous theocrats in Gaza cannot get along with the somewhat less ideological and murderous group on the West Bank, nothing that outsiders can do will change that. 

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