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March 12, 2006

Jimmy Carter rears his ugly head

When I say Carter's rearing his ugly head, I don't mean that Carter personally is ugly, although he certainly is not attractive, but rather that what he says is ugly.

In a column in the Pakistani Daily Times on Friday (via Ace), Carter blames the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians on "Israel's colonisation of Palestine." You needn't waste your time reading the piece, but let me clue you in on his conclusions:

[W]e need not give up hope for permanent peace for Israelis and freedom and justice for Palestinians if three basic premises are honoured:

1. Israel’s right to exist — and to live in peace — must be recognised and accepted by Palestinians and all other neighbours;

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.
Let's get rid of the uninteresting ones first. The Palestinians must recognize Israel's "right to exist." Now, I suppose that's a big concession on Carter's part, but it seems to me that no party to a dispute should get any credit for simply recognizing that there is another party to the dispute that he's not allowed to destroy. (Marriage counselor: Bob, I understand you and Judy are having problems with your marriage, and I can help you, but first you'll need to recognize that Judy exists. Bob: OK, but only if she drops all her claims about me and lets me do whatever the hell I want to do, and I can beat the crap out of her any time I want.)

Next, contrary to Carter, Palestinians can live in peace and dignity with absolutely no help from the Israelis. It's totally an internal matter. All they have to do is to stop trying to murder Israelis and instead work on developing their economy.

But the best of Carter's three points is the second one, which we need to "unpack." Carter says: "The killing of innocent people by suicide bombs or other acts of violence cannot be condoned." Is this a big concession on his part -- that Palestinians must stop killing innocent Israelis? I doubt it. All it says is that the "killing of innocent people by suicide bombs" can't be condoned, which leaves open to interpretation who is "innocent" and whether other means than suicide bombs are permissible. But the key language is "other acts of violence." If Carter's phrase were a statute, a court would interpret the "other acts of violence" in the context of the prohibition on suicide bombings and would probably conclude that it barred similar acts of violence by Palestinians against innocent people. But Carter obviously doesn't mean that. He can't criticize the Palestinians without also criticizing the Israelis, so there's no doubt in my mind that "other acts of violence" means Israeli military actions against Palestinians, no matter whether they're in response to Palestinian violence or even specifically in response to the very suicide bombings that Carter criticizes in the first half of the sentence.

So at the end, what do we have? Israel has the right to exist but not to defend itself or to allow Jews to live among Palestinians. Not a heck of a lot of comfort for the Israelis. And, contrary to Carter, not much of a recipe for peace.