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America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace
April 21, 2002 6:24 AM   Subscribe

America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace An op-ed piece by former president Jimmy Carter that is going to get a lot of play in the media. Unfortunately, Mr. Carter seems to suggest a rather easy solution: give back the Palestinian lands and have the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist. Put the pressure on Israel by withhold financial aid till they do as we bid. Problem: Palestinians being subsidized by Iraq, Iran, EU and Syria. What about pressure on them? And: Palelstinian issues still in need of resolving: capital and Right of Return....with this left out, we are still not going to get peace. Does Carter simplify or is he on target? reg reqd.
posted by Postroad (33 comments total)

 
I'm with Jimmy. Is he being simplistic? Is there another, better solution?
I don't know: I'm not Jimmy Carter. I'm not Jewish or Muslim and I'm not even a US citizen, so it's not up to me. But whatever value my opinion has, I'm for what Jimmy Carter is saying.
Because, and, I don't think anyone is going to argue with me about this, he's trying to engineer a better world.
posted by chrisgregory at 6:57 AM on April 21, 2002


As much as I'd like to think he's got the solution - I don't. Largely for the reasons Postroad points out. Jimmy may indeed be for a better world - hell, who wants a worse world - but good intentions aren't enough. There are a boatload of very real issues that his solution either don't address or simply gloss over to be taken particularly seriously.
posted by schlyer at 7:43 AM on April 21, 2002


I have just come across this plan, much more detailed and much more sensible than the Carter ideas. I find enough here to satisfy all parties interested seriously in peace though perhaps not satisfactory to extremists on both sides.
Mioddle East Peace Plan
posted by Postroad at 8:31 AM on April 21, 2002


Jimmy seems to be the personification of three sayings:

1) For every complex problem, there is a simple, easy-to-understand wrong answer.

2) Winning isn't everything, but losing is your fault.

3) If all the children clap their hands, then Tinkerbell will live.
posted by kablam at 8:32 AM on April 21, 2002


I think it's safe to say that Jimmy Carter, whatever you think of him, has done more for world peace in reality than kabalm ever has or ever will
posted by raysmj at 8:57 AM on April 21, 2002


chrisgregory: Good intentions are necessary, but in and of themselves are not enough. I don't think anyone's disputing that Carter's got his heart in the right place; it's a question of whether he has a workable plan.

Postroad: It's not within our power to stop outside support to the PA or the militants in Palestine without military blockades and the like, and that would just make us look totally partisan and set up a lot more targets for hit-and-run or suicide attacks. It is within our power to reduce or withhold the aid that we give to Israel, based on our policy objectives of the moment. It would not be hard for the U.S. to say, for example, "We oppose the Israeli reoccupation of Palestinian territories, we will oppose future incursions into said territories, and we do not wish to fund such adventures," and then subtract the estimated cost of the Israeli operation from the military aid package for next year.

It doesn't have to be the whole thing all at once; I think a 10% or 20% reduction is substantial enough to signal a strong disapproval of Israeli policies in the territories. In fact, I would support a gradual reduction in military aid to Israel (10% per year or so) until a peace treaty is signed and a full Palestinian state is established. We might even want to link aid to more specific policies (ending settlement building, for example, or more equitably distributing water rights among settlers and Palestinians) that could lead up to that final goal. Ten percent reductions will be felt, but won't make the whole Israeli army collapse or make it vulnerable to attacks from Syria or Iraq (which, let's face it, are now the only credible threats to Israel's very existence).

Right now, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want to give any ground, literally as well as figuratively. The U.S. is an overwhelmingly rich and powerful third party whose strongest interest in the region is a lasting peace, and therefore can serve well as a peace broker. The U.S. has a powerful tool in the form of financial assistance to Israel, which it can use to prod the Israeli government into taking those first few steps. It could even let Sharon off the hook a bit; like Pervez Musharraf last year, he could minimize his political losses by saying that the U.S. is practically forcing him to freeze settlement building under pain of loss of aid and support.

On a side note, it's my impression that all combined aid to Palestinian groups (including from the United States, interestingly enough) is much lower than the $2.8 billion that Israel receives from the United States. Does anyone have figures to refute or verify?
posted by skoosh at 9:11 AM on April 21, 2002


Postroad: Your link (from msnbc.com) on the proposed peace plan actually sounds balanced - well, to me, anyway. Some minor problems: I doubt Israel will give up the Golan Heights - they want the water. But, mostly, it is workable.

The problem is that so much bad blood exists between the combatants that I have serious doubts that a negotiated victory is possible. Especially when one of the combatants - whose organization was funding the very suicide bombers that caused the latest Israeli strikes - is allowed to stay in power.

skoosh: Sorry, I'm not behind cutting Israel's power to defend themselves. I can't agree with your rational - how will hurting one side of the conflict do anything but embolden the other side?
posted by hadashi at 9:34 AM on April 21, 2002


I take exception to a few of your points, skoosh.

1) The strongest interest of the US in the Middle East is not solely or undeniably a lasting peace. I'm not quite sure what our "mission statement" is currently, but it is usually something along the lines of, "making the world safe for democracy and capitalism." We usually put these two things above peace, as our very existance is based on the premise that sometimes democracy is more important than peace.

2) Syria and Iraq are not credible threats to Israel's existance, at least not from a military point of view. Israel is significantly more powerful than any other nation in the region, and with the added bonus of fighting (as your postulate suggests) a defensive war, they would essentially be unbeatable. However, a military threat is not really what worries Israel right now -- the big fear is an economic one. A full mobilization of Israeli armed forces calls up 15% of the labor pool. If Israel is forced to stay mobilized for more than 90 days, it suffers severe economic reprecussions. The threat isn't that Syria, or Iraq, or the Palestinians would win the war; its that they would collapse the Israeli economy in the process of losing. This is why Israel maintains an army of such great power. They don't just have to win, they have to win fast.

3) What you suggest is a sort of hammer-nail dilema: since our only tool is economic aid, lets try using that, even though it doesn't seem particularly applicable. Especially when one considers that it gives the Palestinians the option of basically starving Israel out. Remember, both sides have waited this issue out for decades now. If one side feels that waiting a bit longer is to their advantage, don't think for a moment that they won't run with it.
4) Sharon has an alternative to US aid. Its called a nuke. Granted, this would be in violation of every imaginable nonproliferation treaty. However, the US is considering revising its own promises to include other "WMDs" as items that make a state nukeable. If it were to do this, Israel would almost certainly follow suit, and doing so would make all of the major Arab states in the region viable targets for Israeli nukes, should anyone do anything particularly stupid. If America were to cut off aid, and still the violence escalated, a nuclear scenario would become increasingly likely.

-----------------------------------

The sad thing is that at this point, I don't think either leader is capable of peace. It seems that the best thing the United States and other third parties can do is try to minimize the violence and prevent a real conflict from breaking out while we wait for the next generation of leaders to come to power. Remember, we're at an increadible point in history right now: it's been twenty years since the Arab world and Israel descended into full-scale war. We broke the back of the war cycle. It's not all bad.
posted by Ptrin at 10:09 AM on April 21, 2002


In fact, I would support a gradual reduction in military aid to Israel (10% per year or so) until a peace treaty is signed and a full Palestinian state is established.

And then they won't need military or financial aide support any more. And wouldn't it be nice to have an extra $10 billion back home at the USA every year?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on April 21, 2002


I'm not quite sure what our "mission statement" is currently, but it is usually something along the lines of, "making the world safe for democracy and capitalism."

not necessarily in that order...
posted by Ty Webb at 11:13 AM on April 21, 2002


Well actually, raysmj, I did my part to prevent Jordan from developing a sophisticated chemical warfare apparatus, which would been a destabilizing threat to the entire middle east, though it personally cost me a small fortune to do so.
Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, in his blind rage over the Iranian hostage situation, authorized the production of several tons of a hallucinogenic chemical weapon to be dropped on Tehran--in contravention to many treaties that the US had signed prohibiting their use against civilians--a plan that was thwarted when the hostage rescue effort failed.
No, Jimmy Carter isn't a nice guy. Neither was he a good President. For all his sanctimoniousness, he is of the same cloth as David Duke.
But I can't really criticize you for not knowing these things.
posted by kablam at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2002


I think it's safe to say that Jimmy Carter, whatever you think of him, has done more for world peace in reality than kabalm ever has or ever will.

I think it's safe to say that Ronald Reagan, whatever you think of him, has done more for world peace in reality than raysmj ever has or ever will.
posted by aaron at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2002


Not a comment worthy of a response, aaron.
posted by raysmj at 12:05 PM on April 21, 2002


No, it never is when you're called on your duplicity.
posted by aaron at 12:06 PM on April 21, 2002


I honestly don't know what the hell you're talking about, or where you're coming from.
posted by raysmj at 12:30 PM on April 21, 2002


What the hell are you two arguing about?
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on April 21, 2002


Also.

The Palestinians can't "defend themselves" (practicaly) why should the Israelis be able to. And why should they with our money? The US is paying $500 per person to Israel each year, and they get to do whatever they want with it.

If Israel wants to go rampaging around bulldozing peoples homes and killing them, why should I have to pay for it. (Especially since we paid for the stuff they're bulldozing anyway)

If they want to slaughter palys, let them do it on their own dime.
posted by delmoi at 1:18 PM on April 21, 2002


What the hell are you two arguing about?

Whether or not kablam and raysmj have done more for world peace than Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2002


delmoi: I have no idea. And I'm not arguing.
posted by raysmj at 1:22 PM on April 21, 2002


Or rather, aaron's calling me on the carpet about something involving Reagan, in a thread about Carter and Israel-Palestine, and . . . Wait! I never said anything about Reagan's foreign policy record in either thread. Did I? Was I sleepwalking? I dunno. Really. My head is swimming here. Those hallucinogens supposedly meant for Tehran must've made their way to Metafilter instead.
posted by raysmj at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2002


Just FYI, the stuff was called Agent BZ. Here's some info:

http://www.zarc.com/english/chemical/agentbz.html

And, if at first you think it would be funny to dump it on a major metro area, like Tehran, think again. A wild guess at the number of dead would probably be in the thousands.
But Jimmy Carter was really, really angry; a type of blind rage that some southerners have long been known for.
posted by kablam at 1:38 PM on April 21, 2002


kablam, you're arguing from a very strange perspective. And you should probably come up with a source for your indictment of the man; some quick googling found nothing relevant.

And a hell of a lot of Americans shared that blind rage, kablam. And guess what? Even in our blind rage we didn't glass Iran. Maybe your "blind rage" theory has a few holes. In any event, if I'm president, and another country is holding some of my citizens hostage, I want all the options the military can give me, even the most lethal ones.

If you weren't in the Oval Office with the man, you don't have any basis for making the claim a personal psychological indictment.
posted by dhartung at 3:04 PM on April 21, 2002


The grotesque stupidity of this Op-Ed piece! It's not Israel which needs help to make a just peace; it's the Palestinian Arabs. I think JEC should stop trying to discredit his failed administration and go build some more houses.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:16 PM on April 21, 2002


Anyone posting that A or B started the last round of violence is an example of the problem and not the solution.
posted by onegoodmove at 4:44 PM on April 21, 2002


Aha! It's the BZ, also known as "CIA LSD"! I met someone who claimed to be one of the BZ control subjects once ...

So, we add the BZ to the Neruobiology of Religious Experience, ship tons and tons of "Uncle Sam Teaches Kids to Count with Guns, Knives, and Bombs" schoolbooks to Afghanistan, conduct some informal DU disposal experiments in war zones claimed by Muslims, and toss in these recent aerial photos of Jenin.

(I can't find the earlier thread with the Washington Post article on Afghan schoolbooks, can you?)

Suddenly, all this wierdness starts to make sense. It's nuts!
posted by sheauga at 4:52 PM on April 21, 2002


Paris, I think we all need help to make a just peace under these circumstances. Are we reaching the point in this "clash of civilizations" / "jihad" / "Palestinians vs. Israelis feud" where it's time for a last ditch effort by the athiests to serve as truly impartial moderators? Or do we wait for the Raelians to build the UFO embassy in Jerusalem instead? Like Amos Oz says, nobody's going to like the peace agreement, and they'll be bummed like the end of a Chekhov play-- but if we're lucky, our cast of characters might at least still be living.
posted by sheauga at 5:05 PM on April 21, 2002


Look, I don't really think "who started it" bears on anything. Nothing constructive will happen until The Men of The Suicide Bomb are stopped. Please don't attribute extremism to me: I'm the one who's said, numerous times that Israel's settlements, almost all of them, need to go, and that Israel should get out of the territories as soon as what goes on in them no longer endanger's Israelis.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:17 PM on April 21, 2002


Anyone posting that A or B started the last round of violence is an example of the problem and not the solution.

Exactly what's wrong with a polemical article entitled: "America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace".
posted by xammerboy at 9:32 PM on April 21, 2002


The New York Times editors write the headlines, not staff or outside contributors such as former President Carter.
posted by raysmj at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2002


Exactly what's wrong with a polemical article entitled: "America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace".

It implies Israel is, in relative or absolute terms, the only recalcitrant party involved?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:38 AM on April 22, 2002


Exactly what's wrong with a polemical article entitled: "America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace".

To my mind, nothing! However it's much more fashionable on all sides these days to make WMD threats, throw prima donna tantrums about how we'd all rather commit suicide that go along with anyone else's plan, beat chest in Tarzan fashion and bellow, than it is to sit down and listen to each other.

Israel's the only one to blame? Hardly. There's plenty of blame on all sides, as well as a lack of the magnanimity needed to step forward and say "Enough already, we humans can do better than this."

Look how we've trashed Mr. Carter, who actually does remarkably well at walking the talk and making good on "what would Jesus do?" Every time someone comes forward to propose peace, it gets shouted down as "One more dirty trick!"
posted by sheauga at 6:58 AM on April 22, 2002


But the problem isn't that peace is shouted down; it's the gross failure of too many people to see that Israel has done superhuman things to attempt peace, and the otherside has done superhuman things to prevent it.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:15 AM on April 22, 2002


Exactly what's wrong with a polemical article entitled: "America Can Persuade Israel to Make a Just Peace".

I think it's just referencing that America may have some sway with israel, which is simply not true with regard to the palestinians.
posted by mdn at 7:35 AM on April 22, 2002


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