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Our Debt to Jimmy Carter

By Haaretz Editorial

15/04/08 "
Haaretz" -- -- The government of Israel is boycotting Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, during his visit here this week. Ehud Olmert, who has not managed to achieve any peace agreement during his public life, and who even tried to undermine negotiations in the past, "could not find the time" to meet the American president who is a signatory to the peace agreement with Egypt. President Shimon Peres agreed to meet Carter, but made sure that he let it be known that he reprimanded his guest for wishing to meet with Khaled Meshal, as if the achievements of the Carter Center fall short of those of the Peres Centre for Peace. Carter, who himself said he set out to achieve peace between Israel and Egypt from the day he assumed office, worked incessantly toward that goal and two years after becoming president succeeded - was declared persona non grata by Israel.

The boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government's history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world. Recently, he was involved in organizing the democratic elections in Nepal, following which a government will be set up that will include Maoist guerrillas who have laid down their arms. But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."

Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel's control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to "full autonomy" for the occupied territories, not to settle there.

These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.

Whether Carter's approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter's method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.

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