CAIRO: Just a few weeks before the current confrontation between the Arabs and Israelis over Israel’s excavations near Al-Aqsa mosque, former US president Jimmy Carter had released his poignant book “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid.
That such escalations have coincided with the release is not a big surprise. Carter, in this book and elsewhere, has predicted time and again that no reconciliation is likely to transpire, especially amid the obstinacy of the Israeli politicians whose decisions and practices are once again killing any hope for the ever derailed peace process in the crisis-ridden Middle East.
The book, which infuriated Israeli officials, has been released in Arabic translation and is now circulating in many bookshops In Cairo.
The book was translated into Arabic by Egyptian-American Adel Naguib, who believes it one of these documents that harbor the secrets of fateful event, which are usually declassified decades later.
However, contrary to what the translator has stressed in his introduction, this book is more of an eye-witness account of the present developments on the scene than a whistle blower.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is still unfolding with no end in sight.
In his capacity as the main broker of the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, Carter has been one of the best policy-makers to have aired constructive sentiments and plans to face the longstanding dilemma.
He has emerged as a fair judge, unlike many Western politicians whose attitudes are more often tilted towards Israeli policies.
But apart from his position as one of the initiators of the peace process and the driving force behind the Carter Center, a non-profit organization aimed at spreading peace and democracy and resolving conflicts worldwide, Carter is looking upon these developments as an impartial Christian and as an unbiased American national.
During his first visit to Israel in 1973, Carter had been planning ahead for a political career back home. But despite the positive impression he had been left with regarding the future of the Jewish state after the 1967 Six Day War, he could not ignore the comparison between the exodus of the Palestinians from their own territories and the forceful migration of the Red Indians from Georgia to Oklahoma in which 4,000 of the migrants perished.
This is why many Arab analysts had predicted that any peace deal in the Middle East would initiate from a president belonging to the southern states. According to one Egyptian analyst, the Americans in the north, like the Europeans, are tortured by guilt towards the Jews but that complex starts paling as one moves south.
The peace initiative came from Carter, once the ruler of Georgia and a devout Christian who was the first to stun Golda Meir, the then Israeli prime minister, with questions relating to the secular nature of the Israeli state and the principles of Jewish-Christian peace and justice.
“I was reassured as the Israelis stressed their intentions to pull out of the occupied territories in return for peace. but four months after my visit they were shocked as the Arab armies launched their attacks on October 6, 1973.
Having reviewed the situation from his presidency up to Regan, Bill Clinton and George Bush’s administrations, Carter paused to conduct an extensive analysis that focused on the present state of affairs.
In such a welter, inquired Carter, what are the basic requirements of peace? What’s the future holding for the peace process? What is the common ground that all conflicting parties should build a secure future on? Do negotiations yield better results under pressure from world policy-makers? Or is it better they would be orchestrated through shrewd and calculated political efforts? Could the mammoth US-supported Israeli war machinery crush the Arabs? And could the current clashes lead to a nuclear war in the region?
Carter says that the peace process has been pushed to the sidelines as the superpower remains occupied with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the nuclear issues in Iran and Korea.
The Arab regimes are no better off as questions of Islamic fundamentalism and the spread of democracy are coming to the center stage of their agendas to overshadow the Middle East conflict.
However the only glimpse of hope is in the ordinary people’s outlook, be it the Palestinians or the Israelis. The Palestinians have been forced to accept that Israel is a state that has the right to exist, says Carter. The majority of the Jews have toned down on the rebuilding of the Kingdom of David that encompasses the West bank, Golan Heights and parts of Jordan and Lebanon, he adds.
Washington should play the role of the unbiased mediator, noted Carter who is blaming the Israeli officials for the chaos that now reigns in the occupied territories and the thousands that had fallen victim as a result.
“There are two main obstacles: First, the belief of the Israelis in their right to lay their hands on more Palestinian land and justify the aggressions made to subdue them. Second, the reactions of the Palestinians with regard to encouraging suicide bombers and honoring them as martyrs.
But for Carter the problem that has persisted for more than 25 years is that the Israeli practices are not even in line with the US and world policies.
“But the Congress and the White House are encouraging these unofficial policies to have the upper hand.When the majority of the Americans remain uninformed about the situation in the Occupied Territories.they were infuriated and surprised to hear that, according to an opinion poll published in the International Herald Tribune in 2003, 7, 500 Europeans considered Israel to be the biggest threat to world peace.
For Carter the major derailment of the peace efforts has been the wall currently being raised across the West Bank to protect the Jewish settlements in that part of the country.
Rather than boost apartheid the wall is intended to usurp more Palestinian land, block the access to major sacred Christian sites and isolate Palestinians from Palestinians.
“The Israeli war machinery can cause destruction and wreak havoc, but be warned if that happens guerilla fighters will thrive, get united and gain more support.
The only way out, according to Carter, is to encourage the efforts of the moderates of both sides. Both peoples are ready for peace but it is always the political leaders who thwart it.