Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter








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By choosing the word, “apartheid” in the subtitle of his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, former President Jimmy Carter creates controversy before the book’s cover is opened. While the book is about Palestine, the elephant in the room is Israel, and Carter pulls no punches in calling attention to the many ways in which the state of Israel has failed to live up to its agreements. Thanks to Carter’s patient narration in this book, readers can listen to another call for peace in this troubled region and understand the specific ways in which it could be achieved. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 3, “My Presidency: 1977-81,” pp. 37-41:


The 1973 war introduced major changes in the character of the Middle East. The effective performance of the Egyptian and Syrian armies increased the stature of both President Ariwar al-Sadat of Egypt and President Hafez al­Assad of Syria. The Arab states demonstrated that they were willing to use oil as a weapon in support of Arab interests, through embargo and price increases. In Israel, in June 1974, Prime Minister Golda Meir resigned and Yitzhak Rabin took her place. Also, in October, Arab lead­ers unanimously proclaimed the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, with Yasir Arafat as its leader. Now the Palestinians were to be seen as a people who could speak for themselves.

The PLO became a powerful political entity, able to arouse strong support in international forums from the Arabs, the Soviet Union, most Third World countries, and many others. However, U.S. government leaders pledged not to recognize or negotiate with the PLO until the orga­nization officially acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and accepted U.N. Resolution 242, which confirmed Israel’s ex­istence within its 1949 borders. A more important problem was that the PLO’s rejection of Israel was shared by the lead­ers of all Arab nations, following four wars in the previous twenty-five years.

These were the events that I monitored after returning home from my first visit to Israel and during my race for president. It was a rare day on the campaign trail that I did not receive questions from Jewish citizens about the inter­ests of Israel, and my growing team of issue analysts pro­vided me with briefing papers that I could study. I made repeated promises that I would seek to invigorate the dor­mant peace effort, and after I was elected and before my in­auguration I made a speech at the Smithsonian Institution in which I listed this as a major foreign policy goal.

Since the United States had to play a strong role in any peace effort, I reviewed the official positions of my predeces­sors on the key issues. Our nation’s constant policy had been predicated on a few key United Nations Security Council resolutions, notably 242 of 1967 (Appendix 1) and 338 of 1973 (Appendix 2). Approved unanimously and still applica­ble, their basic premise is that Israel’s acquisition of territory by force is illegal and that Israel must withdraw from occu­pied territories; that Israel has the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries; that the refugee problem must be settled; and that the international commu­nity should assist with negotiations to achieve a just and durable peace in the Middle East. More specifically, U.S. policy was that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza were “illegal and obstacles to peace.” One of my first and most controversial public statements came in March 1977, just a few weeks after I became president, when I re­viewed these same premises and added, “There has to be a homeland provided for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many, many years.” This would be the first move toward supporting a Palestinian state.

Two weeks later, President Sadat came to Washington for a state visit, and after the official banquet he and I went upstairs to the living quarters in the ‘White House. Dur­ing a long, private conversation it became obvious that his inclination to work with me on peace negotiations was already well developed, but he had not decided on any firm plan to reach what might become our common goal. Sadat told me plainly that he was willing to take bold steps toward peace, all of them based on the prevailing U.N. Security Council resolutions. We discussed some of the specific elements of possible direct negotiations in the future: Israel’s permanent boundaries, the status of Jeru­salem, Palestinian rights, and—almost inconceivable at the time—free trade and open borders between the two nations, plus full diplomatic recognition and the exchange of am­bassadors.

Menachem Begin replaced Yitzhak Rabin as prime min­ister a month later, and I quickly learned all I could about Israel’s new leader. His surprising victory ended the uninter­rupted domination of the Labor Party since Israel’s inde­pendence. Begin had put together a majority coalition that accepted his premise that the land in Gaza and the \Vest Bank belonged rightfully to the State of Israel and should not be exchanged for a permanent peace agreement with the Arabs. Public opinion varied widely, but there was no doubt in 1977 that a more hawkish attitude now prevailed in the government of Israel. I was deeply concerned but sent him personal congratulations and an invitation to visit me in Washington.

Although many factors had influenced the outcome of the Israeli election, age and ethnic differences strongly fa­vored the Likud over the Labor alignment. Oriental Jews (known as Sephardim), whose families had come from the Middle East and Africa, gave the Likud coalition parties a political margin in 1977, and they were inclined to support a much more militant policy in dealing with the occupied ter­ritories. Although Begin was not one of them by birth, his philosophy and demeanor were attractive to the Sephardic voters. Also, the Sephardim were generally younger, more conservative, and nearer the bottom of the economic ladder and they resented the more prosperous and sophisticated Jewish immigrants from Europe and America (known as Ashkenazim), who had furnished almost all of Israel’s previ­ous leaders. The Sephardic families had a higher birth rate than the Ashkenazim, and now, combined with many immi­grants, they had become a strong political force.

The personal character of Menachem Begin was also a major factor in the victory. After he and his family suffered persecution in Eastern Europe and Siberia for his political activity as a Zionist, he was released from a Soviet prison and went to Palestine in 1942. He became the leader of a militant underground group called the Irgun, which es­poused the maximum demands of Zionism. These included driving British forces out of Palestine. He fought with every weapon available against the British, who branded him as the preeminent terrorist in the region. A man of personal courage and single-minded devotion to his goals, he took pride in being a “fighting Jew.” I realized that Israel’s new prime minister, with whom I would be dealing, would be prepared to resort to extreme measures to achieve the goals in which he believed.


Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, brings readers a three decade perspective on the topic of peace between Israel and its neighbors, and reveals the blueprint that has been in place for a long time on how peace could be achieved.


Steve Hopkins, March 23, 2007



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