'My No.1 goal in life: Israel at peace with all neighbors'

Jimmy Carter: Israeli-Palestinian peace impossible with Netanyahu at helm

Former US president, in Israel to mark 40th anniversary of peace treaty with Egypt, also says he isn’t sure PA President Abbas wants peace

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Former President Jimmy Carter pictured before a book signing Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP/John Amis)
Former President Jimmy Carter pictured before a book signing Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP/John Amis)

Former US president Jimmy Carter said he doesn’t think Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible as long as Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister, since Netanyahu isn’t interested in peace.

The 94-year-old, who is currently on a trip to Israel marking 40 years since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace accord he brokered, said he’s “not sure” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants an agreement either.

The comments were made in an interview with Israeli journalist Tali Lipkin Shahak, which will be screened next week at a conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Excerpts from it were aired Monday on Channel 12.

“I don’t see any way to make peace with Netanyahu as prime minister, I don’t think he wants peace. And I’m not sure that Abu Mazen does either right now,” Carter said, referring to Abbas by his popular nickname.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Taking an apparent jab at US President Donald Trump, he added: “And you don’t have a trusted mediator who can bridge the gap and secure the step-by-step small concessions that are necessary for accommodation.”

Carter said that Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had sought his advice on the administration’s long-awaited peace plan.

“I have talked to President Trump’s son-in-law about the Middle East and urged him to be aggressive and flexible as well, and to reach out to the Palestinians as well as to the Israelis and the Arab leaders,” he said in the interview. “And he promised me that he would, but I’m not sure that’s been done.”

Former US president Jimmy Carter, a member of The Elders group of retired prominent world figures, waves as he arrives for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on May 2, 2015 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

“I would like for the Israelis to know that my number one goal in life would be for Israel to be able to live at peace with all her neighbors,” Carter continued.

The landmark peace accord between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was signed in Washington on March 26, 1979, after an agreement brokered by Carter a year earlier in Camp David.

In his interview, Carter also touched on his thoughts about the peace negotiations he oversaw, commenting that “in the 13 days that we had available, I think we did the best we could.”

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, left, US President Jimmy Carter, center, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin clasp hands on the North Lawn of the White House after signing the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, March 26, 1979 (photo credit: AP/Bob Daugherty/File)

“Sadat was very courageous, he gave his life to an assassin as you know, and prime minister Begin was the most courageous of all, because he made the most difficult concessions in Camp David to reach an ultimate agreement,” he said.

Sadat was assassinated by fundamentalist Egyptian army officers on October 6, 1981.

The treaty saw Israel remove all its military and civilian presence from the Sinai Peninsula and return it to Egypt, after the territory was conquered during the 1967 Six Day War.

But a second part of the Camp David accords, relating to peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians, was never implemented.

A separate agreement, the Oslo Accord, was reached in 1993.

“I have always felt that if had I been reelected president, that I could have used my influence to implement both parts of the Camp David accords, but I went out of office and I tried to use my influence then, but president [Ronald] Reagan didn’t have any interest in peace in the Middle East,” Carter said.

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