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Jimmy Carter op ed in WashPost 1/18/07

*A New Chance for Peace?*

By Jimmy Carter
Thursday, January 18, 2007; A23

I am concerned that public discussion of my book "Palestine Peace Not
Apartheid" has been diverted from the book's basic proposals: that peace
talks be resumed after six years of delay and that the tragic
persecution of Palestinians be ended. Although most critics have not
seriously disputed or even mentioned the facts and suggestions about
these two issues, an apparently concerted campaign has been focused on
the book's title, combined with allegations that I am anti-Israel. This
is not good for any of us who are committed to Israel's status as a
peaceful nation living in harmony with its neighbors.

It is encouraging that President Bush has announced that peace in the
Holy Land will be a high priority for his administration during the next
two years. On her current trip to the region, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice has called for an early U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian
meeting. She has recommended the 2002 offer of the 23 Arab nations as a
foundation for peace: full recognition of Israel based on a return to
its internationally recognized borders. This offer is compatible with
official U.S. policy, previous agreements approved by Israeli
governments in 1978 and 1993, and the "road map" for peace developed by
the "quartet" (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the
United Nations).

The clear fact is that Israel will never find peace until it is willing
to withdraw from its neighboring occupied territories and permit the
Palestinians to exercise their basic human and political rights. With
land swaps, this "green line" can be modified through negotiations to
let a substantial number of Israeli settlers remain in their subsidized
homes east of the internationally recognized border. The premise of
exchanging Arab territory for peace has been acceptable for several
decades to a majority of Israelis but not to a minority of the more
conservative leaders, who are unfortunately supported by most of the
vocal American Jewish community.

These same premises, of course, will have to be accepted by any
government that represents the Palestinians. A March 2006 poll by the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and
Survey Research in Ramallah found 73 percent approval among citizens in
the occupied territories, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
has expressed support for talks between President Mahmoud Abbas and
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and pledged to end Hamas's
rejectionist position if a negotiated agreement is approved by the
Palestinian people.

Abbas is wise in repeating to Secretary Rice that he rejects any
"interim" boundaries for the Palestinian state. The step-by-step
road-map formula promulgated almost three years ago for reaching a final
agreement has proved to be a non-starter -- and an excuse for not making
any progress. I know from experience that it is often more difficult to
negotiate an interim agreement, with all its future uncertainties, than
to address the panoply of crucial issues that will have to be resolved
to reach the goal of peace.

Given these recent developments and with the Democratic Party poised to
play a more important role in governing, this is a good time to clarify
our party's overall policy in the broader Middle East. Numerous options
are available as Congress attempts to correlate its suggestions with
White House policy, and there is little doubt that the basic proposals
of the Iraq Study Group provide a good foundation on which Democrats
might reach something of a consensus (recognizing that individual
lawmakers could still make their own proposals on details). This party
policy would provide a reasonable answer to the allegation that
Democrats have no alternatives of their own to address the Iraq quagmire.

A key factor in an Iraq policy would be strong demands on Prime Minister
Nouri al-Maliki's government to cooperate in ending sectarian violence,
prodded by a clear notice of plans for troop withdrawals. A commitment
to regional cooperation, including opportunities for Iran and Syria to
participate, would be beneficial in assuring doubtful Iraqis that
America will no longer be the dominant outside power shaping their
military, political and economic future.

Although Israel's prime minister has criticized these facets of the Iraq
Study Group's report, the most difficult recommendation for many
Democrats could be the call for substantive peace talks on the
Palestinian issue. The situation in the occupied territories will be a
crucial factor, and it would be helpful for both the House and Senate to
send a responsible delegation to the West Bank and Gaza to observe the
situation personally, to meet with key leaders and to ascertain the
prospects if peace talks can be launched.

I am convinced that, with bipartisan support, this is a good opportunity
for progress.

/The writer was the 39th president and is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
His most recent book is "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid
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