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Carter's Efforts To Mend Ties With Jews Get Cold Shoulder

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    Carter s Efforts To Mend Ties With Community Get Cold Shoulder Foxman: I Didn t Want To Be Used Nathan Guttman Wed. Oct 31, 2007 The Jewish Daily Forward
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2007
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      Carter's Efforts To Mend Ties With Community Get Cold Shoulder
      Foxman: 'I Didn't Want To Be Used'
      Nathan Guttman
      Wed. Oct 31, 2007
      The Jewish Daily Forward
      www.forward.com


      Washington - Jimmy Carter's newest efforts to repair relations with
      the Jewish community were rebuffed not once but twice last week ? and
      at the very highest levels.

      Carter's first outreach effort came in an invitation to Jewish groups
      to discuss ways that the former president could help make the upcoming
      Middle East peace conference a success. While Carter invited most of
      the major Jewish organizations, the event was only attended by
      representatives of the Reform movement and by several smaller dovish
      Jewish groups.

      "I didn't want to be used," said the Anti-Defamation League's national
      director, Abraham Foxman, one of the leaders who turned down Carter's
      invitation. "I didn't think anything constructive could come out of
      the meeting, except for him being able to say he met with Jewish leaders."

      Carter has encountered similar difficulties in reaching out to Jewish
      lawmakers on Capitol Hill. A closed-door meeting he held with Jewish
      members of Congress turned into a passionate rebuke of the former
      president's views on Israel and the Middle East.

      "He left the room less happy than Lincoln was when he left the Ford
      Theatre," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat who attended
      the meeting.

      Carter has had strained relations with much of the organized Jewish
      community since the publication of his book "Palestine: Peace Not
      Apartheid" and his ensuing remarks regarding the Jewish lobby's
      influence on American foreign policy. The reception he received last
      week suggests that the resentment is still strong and that it may pose
      an obstacle for him as he attempts to offer his help in brokering
      peace in the Middle East.

      His renewed appeal is part of his work with a group known as The
      Elders. Founded by South Africa's Nelson Mandela last summer, The
      Elders consists of 13 senior statesmen who attempt to use their
      international clout and their experience to deal with the world's most
      pressing conflicts. Along with Carter, members include Desmond Tutu,
      Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former United Nations
      secretary general Kofi Annan. The group's first mission was to Darfur,
      and it is now looking into taking an active role in the
      Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      The invitation to Jewish organizations, sent out by Elders liaison
      Mickey Bergman, stated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss
      ways in which The Elders can help out with the Middle East peace process.

      The invitation was not totally unrewarded. The Wednesday lunchtime
      meeting was attended by five Jewish members, including the Reform
      movement's Religious Action Center, which was represented by Rabbi
      David Saperstein. Other groups that sent representatives were Israel
      Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek V'Shalom and the
      New Israel Fund. All are strong advocates of a two-state solution
      between Israel and the Palestinians. Another participant in the
      meeting was Tom Dine, a former executive director of the American
      Israel Public Affairs Committee who is also known for his dovish views.

      "We did not raise the issue of the book in the meeting; it is old
      news," one participant told the Forward.

      Another attendant, Brit Tzedek V'Shalom's new president, Steve
      Masters, said the atmosphere was good and that he sensed no tension
      between Carter and the Jewish activists in the room.

      "We all recognized that he is one of the only people in the world who
      were successful in brokering peace between Israelis and Arabs,"
      Masters said.

      A Jewish organizational official speaking under condition of anonymity
      said that Carter invited "almost all major groups" but most of them
      turned down the invitation. This decision was criticized by those present.

      "I think the refusal of Jewish groups to show up is offensive," said
      M.J. Rosenberg, Israel Policy Forum's policy analysis director, who
      was in attendance. "It is very unfortunate when a former president
      invites and people don't show up."

      It was not clear if the decision not to attend was made by groups
      separately or was a result of consultations. Malcolm Hoenlein,
      executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major
      American Jewish Organizations, did not return calls from the Forward
      regarding the meeting with Carter.

      Foxman rejects the claim that turning down the invitation was improper.

      "I don't disrespect him," Foxman said, adding that his reason for not
      coming to the meeting was Carter's refusal to apologize for arguing
      that Jews control the media and academia. "He is entitled not to
      support Israel, but he is not entitled to come out and fuel
      antisemitic canards."

      Bergman, who accompanied Carter in his meetings with the Jewish
      leaders, would not comment on the talks, saying they were "off the
      record and private."

      Carter's chilly reception by the Jewish organizations only got worse a
      few hours later, when he met with Jewish lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
      The event, hosted by California Democrat Tom Lantos, served as a forum
      for Jewish Democrats to vent their outrage at Carter's book.

      "I told him that the Jewish community, that has great respect for his
      work around the world, is extremely hurt, disappointed and frustrated
      from his views and that he cannot serve as an honest broker," Ackerman
      said.

      A similar message was also voiced by Lantos and three other Jewish
      lawmakers who attended the meeting: Henry Waxman, Howard Berman and
      Jane Harman.

      The members of Congress told Carter that he needs to apologize, but
      the former president did not do so.

      Another stop during Carter's day in Washington was at the State
      Department, where he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to
      discuss his views on the Middle East. Rice has recently conducted a
      series of consultations with former administration officials in order
      to "draw on the historical record and experiences of others," as
      described by spokesman Sean McCormack. The consultations included
      talks with former president Bill Clinton and several of Rice's
      predecessors: Madeleine Albright, James Baker and Henry Kissinger.

      But a State Department official told the Forward that the meeting with
      Carter was not part of these consultations.

      "She was not seeking advice from him," the official said, stressing
      that it was Carter who asked for the meeting and that Rice agreed "out
      of respect."

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