Friday, November 17, 2006

Jimmy Carter on Israel. What the Democrats Won't Say

Q: In response to Republican claims that the Democratic
Party is weakening in its support for Israel, Democratic
leaders -- most prominently Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean --
have recently issued statements saying that you do not
represent the Democratic Party on Israel. What is your

A: They are right. I don't speak for the Democratic Party.
In fact, I don't think anybody speaks for the Democratic
Party, including Howard Dean or Bill Clinton or Nancy
Pelosi. The Democratic Party is an umbrella under which
multiple voices exist. I would just refer to my own record
as a president -- I was the one who negotiated a peace
agreement between Israel and Egypt, not a word of which
has ever been violated, and I worked throughout the entire
four years to bring peace to Israel within its own
borders. I don't have to explain my credentials in terms
of bringing peace to Israel.

Q: Do you think that most Democrats agree with your views
on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

A: If you talk about members of the Congress, I would say
no, because the Congress members are almost universally
silent as far as any criticism of anything that the
Israeli government does. But I think that's an anomaly
among Democrats in the entire country, and, in fact, among
Americans all over. I think there's a tremendous concern
that Israel has refused to accept the premise that Israel
can have peace if it's willing to define its borders along
the official internationally recognized line -- that is,
the Green Line -- modified, if necessary, and I think it
would be necessary, by good faith negotiations with the
Palestinians on a swap basis. But Israel has not been
willing to do that, and I think if Israel doesn't do it, I
don't see any possibility that Israel will ever know
peace, certainly not in my lifetime, if they insist on
confiscation and occupation of Arab land.

Q: Have Democrats in Congress become less willing to
criticize Israel since your administration?

A: I think when I was in office, there was a lot of
flexibility among Democratic members of the House, and
Senate. I had great help from strong Jewish senators, like
Senator Jacob Javits, and from Hubert Humphrey, who was a
champion of Israel's, and so they all supported me as I
went through the process of inducing Israel to withdraw
from Egyptian land, that is the Sinai, and of accepting
the commitment that Menachem Begin made and the Knesset
approved, of Israel's withdrawing its political and
military forces from the West Bank, and giving the
Palestinians full autonomy, with the right to choose their
own government. And so all of that is in the Camp David
agreement, which Democrats approved both publicly and

Q: We've talked a lot about criticism of Israel, but you
have described the country's existence as 'a moral
principle.' How does your faith inform your commitment to
the Jewish state?

A: You have to be careful of the so-called Christian
evangelicals because the ones who are most vocal support
the so-called "left behind" theories -- which call for the
final days to come, and the Armageddon, and the premise
there, which I think is completely erroneous, by the way,
is that in order for Christ to come again, to return, the
entire Holy Land has to be swept clean of Muslims and
others. But the ultimate stage, according to their
beliefs, is that all Jews have to be killed or become
Christians. But they do support Israel's occupation of the
West Bank.... I think that's a completely stupid and
ridiculous premise on which to base foreign policy or on
which to base support for Israel. My support for Israel is
proven and deeply ingrained in my own soul, but I don't
think Israel will ever have peace unless they are willing,
as I've said earlier, to live within their borders that
are reconfirmed even recently with the international
quartet's so-called road map, and that says that United
Nations Resolution 242 must be implemented and Israel must
withdraw from occupied territory.

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