Jimmy Carter: Colonization of Palestine Precludes Peace
- Colonization of Palestine Precludes Peace
By Jimmy Carter
Thursday 09 March 2006
Former US President Jimmy Carter led The Carter Center/National
Democratic Institute observation of the Palestinian elections in
For more than a quarter century, Israeli policy has been in
conflict with that of the United States and the international
community. Israel's occupation of Palestine has obstructed a
comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land, regardless of
whether Palestinians had no formalized government, one headed by
Yasir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or with Abbas as president and Hamas
controlling the parliament and cabinet.
The unwavering U.S. position since Dwight Eisenhower's
administration has been that Israel's borders coincide with those
established in 1949, and, since 1967, the universally adopted U.N.
Resolution 242 has mandated Israel's withdrawal from the occupied
territories. This policy was reconfirmed even by Israel in 1978 and
1993, and emphasized by all American presidents, including George W.
Bush. As part of the Quartet, including Russia, the U.N. and the
European Union, he has endorsed a "Road Map" for peace. But Israel
has officially rejected its basic premises with patently
unacceptable caveats and prerequisites.
With Israel's approval, The Carter Center has monitored all
three Palestinian elections. Supervised by a blue-ribbon commission
of college presidents and distinguished jurists, they have all been
honest, fair and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and
Hamas will control the cabinet and prime minister's office, but
Mahmoud Abbas retains all authority and power exercised by Yasir
Arafat. He still heads the PLO, the only Palestinian entity
recognized by Israel, and could deal with Israeli leaders under this
umbrella, independent of Hamas control. He has unequivocally
endorsed the Quartet's Road Map. Post-election polls show that 80
percent of Palestinians still want a peace agreement with Israel and
nearly 70 percent support Abbas as president.
Israel has announced a policy of isolating and destabilizing the
new government (perhaps joined by the United States). The elected
officials will be denied travel permits, workers from isolated Gaza
barred from entering Israel and every effort is being made to block
funds to Palestinians. The Quartet's special envoy, James
Wolfensohn, has proposed that donors assist the Palestinian people
without violating anti-terrorism laws that prohibit funds from being
sent directly to Hamas.
In the short run, the best approach is to follow Wolfensohn's
advice, give the dust a chance to settle in Palestine and await the
outcome of Israel's election later this month. Hamas wishes now to
consolidate its political gains, maintain domestic order and
stability and refrain from any contacts with Israel. It will be a
tragedy - especially for the Palestinians - if they promote or
The preeminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonization of
Palestine. There were just a few hundred settlers in the West Bank
and Gaza when I became president, but the Likud government expanded
settlement activity after I left office. President Ronald Reagan
condemned this policy, and reaffirmed that Resolution 242
remained "the foundation stone of America's Middle East peace
effort." President George H.W. Bush even threatened to reduce
American aid to Israel.
Although President Bill Clinton made strong efforts to promote
peace, a massive increase of settlers occurred during his
administration, to 225,000, mostly while Ehud Barak was prime
minister. Their best official offer to the Palestinians was to
withdraw 20 percent of them, leaving 180,000 in 209 settlements,
covering about five percent of the occupied land.
The five percent figure is grossly misleading, with surrounding
areas taken or earmarked for expansion, roadways joining settlements
with each other and to Jerusalem and wide arterial swaths providing
water, sewage, electricity and communications. This intricate
honeycomb divides the entire West Bank into multiple fragments,
often uninhabitable or even unreachable.
Recently, Israeli leaders have decided on unilateral actions
without involving either the United States or the Palestinians, with
withdrawal from Gaza as the first step. As presently circumscribed
and isolated, without access to the air, sea or the West Bank, Gaza
is a nonviable economic and political entity.
The future of the West Bank is equally dismal. Especially
troublesome is Israel's construction of huge concrete dividing walls
in populated areas and high fences in rural areas - located entirely
on Palestinian territory and often with deep intrusions to encompass
more land and settlements. The wall is designed to surround a
truncated Palestine completely, and a network of exclusive highways
will cut across what is left of Palestine to connect Israel with the
Jordan River Valley.
This will never be acceptable either to Palestinians or to the
international community, and will inevitably precipitate increased
tension and violence within Palestine and stronger resentment and
animosity from the Arab world against America, which will be held
accountable for the plight of the Palestinians.
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and others pointed out years
ago that Israel's permanent occupation will be increasingly
difficult as the relative number of Jewish citizens decreases
demographically both within Israel and in Palestine. This is obvious
to most Israelis, who also view this dominant role as a distortion
of their ancient moral and religious values. Over the years, opinion
polls have consistently shown that about 60 percent of Israelis
favor withdrawing from the West Bank in exchange for permanent
peace. Similarly, an overwhelming number of both Israelis and
Palestinians want a durable two-state solution.
Casualties have increased during the past few years as the
occupying forces imposed tighter controls. From September 2000 until
March 2006, 3982 Palestinians and 1084 Israelis were killed in the
conflict, and this includes many children: 708 Palestinians and 123
There is little doubt that accommodation with Palestinians can
bring full Arab recognition of Israel and its right to live in
peace. Any rejectionist policies of Hamas or any terrorist group
will be overcome by an overall Arab commitment to restrain further
violence and to promote the well-being of the Palestinian people.
Down through the years, I have seen despair and frustration
evolve into optimism and progress and, even now, we need not give up
hope for permanent peace for Israelis and freedom and justice for
Palestinians if three basic premises are honored:
1. Israel's right to exist - and to live in peace - must be
recognized and accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbors;
2. The killing of innocent people by suicide bombs or other acts
of violence cannot be condoned; and
3. Palestinians must live in peace and dignity, and permanent
Israeli settlements on their land are a major obstacle to this goal.
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