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Barriers to Israel peace less now, says President Carter

July 24th, 2013
04:28 PM ET

By Mick Krever, Claire Calzonetti & Juliet Fuisz, CNN

The differences to bridge for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians are not as great now as they were between Israel and Egypt during the groundbreaking Camp David accords, Former President Jimmy Carter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“The differences between the two are not nearly so great as they were then,” Carter said, “if Israel will still accept, which they did in 1978 and ‘79, that the acquisition of territory by force is not legal.”

President Carter’s efforts as president led to the groundbreaking first-ever peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, known as the Camp David Accords.

Direct negotiations between Israel and another neighbor, the Palestinians, now look more real than they have in years, thanks to the work of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Carter – as a member of The Elders, a group of distinguished former presidents, veteran diplomats, and other leaders founded by Nelson Mandela – is using his years of experience to try to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

He spoke with Amanpour in London along with fellow-Elder Lakhdar Brahimi, the longtime diplomat who is currently the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.

Brahimi told Amanpour that one of the toughest issues to be worked out in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the right of Palestinians to return to their erstwhile homes now in Israeli territory, may not actually be as difficult as it is made out to be.

“The injustice that has been done to these people has to be recognized,” Brahimi said. “Once you have recognized that … I think that the Palestinians are mature enough and responsible enough and realistic enough to know that not every single Palestinian who left, or was thrown out of their homes and their villages – their descendants will be accepted again in Israel.”

The former U.S. president said that borders will be the keystone to a breakthrough.

“The borders between Israel and the Palestinians is the crucial issue,” President Carter said. “After that is resolved to some degree, then the settlers and other things will fall into shape.”

The issues to surmount during negotiations between Israel and Egypt, Carter said, were greater.

“We had just seen elected in Israel a very hardliner, as you know, Menachem Begin, who had sworn not to give up any territory,” Carter explained. “So we went to Camp David with not very much hope on the Israeli side. But eventually, I think the Israelis saw … what peace could bring to the whole people there.”

As the joint envoy to Syria, Brahimi must deal with an issue seemingly even more intractable than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He almost stepped down from his post earlier this year, but U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reportedly begged him to stay on, and he is still on the job.

“We are, you know, begging and warning and appealing to everybody to understand this very simple fact: There is no military victory,” Brahimi told Amanpour. “This problem, like all problems, has to be solved and will be solved - and it will be solved through a political process. And the earlier you start that political process, the better for the Syrian people.”

The United States has said it will start supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, but has been very wary to become involved in a more meaningful way, without a fully formed public policy.

“I think one of the mistakes from the very beginning was that Assad had to step down as a first step, which was never possible,” President Carter said. “That was an American position.”

The other impediment to American involvement, the former U.S. president said, has been concern about the goals of the opposition.

“A lot of them are very radical, maybe al Qaeda and so forth. Some of them [are] more committed to democracy,” Carter said. “And they are divided.”

Carter nonetheless praised the work of Brahimi, as well as his predecessor, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Since leaving office, Carter has focused much of his attention on international issues, but as a former U.S. president, he nonetheless has much experience with the kind of national security issues presented by the case of Edward Snowden, who revealed communications spying by the U.S. National Security Administration (NSA).

“The revelation of what has been done – not the details of it, but, the fact that we were listened to, with our telephone calls and our cell phones and everything else,” Carter said, “was something that's now precipitated a debate.”

That a conversation has been started about these issues “has been good,” Carter contended.

“But what Snowden did is obviously a serious violation of the law.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Ari katz

    What a biased interview – carter is a known anti Semite and an Arab league envoy – did u forget that a discussion on israel should have a balanced view with an Israeli rep? Typical CNN – anti Israel news service!!!

    July 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • kanees

      I think u will agree with me if we send Bush Jr mounted on DICK (Cheney) as rep of semites to creat a balance.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:20 am | Reply

      Yep, anit-Israel. Hey Ari, your check is the mail... 😉

      July 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Reply
      • Hans

        Carter is a known antisemite and liar, google it if you don't believe it

        July 28, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • Awabnavi

      Israel deserves the anti-Israeli stands of so many because of it's aggressive land grabbing policies.

      July 31, 2013 at 7:30 am | Reply
    • hard124get

      CNN and all US media is Zionist owned and considered a joke in the rest of the world for its blatant bias for Israel.

      September 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  2. Thinker23

    "... “if Israel will still accept, which they did in 1978 and ‘79, that the acquisition of territory by force is not legal.”

    Well, how did Transjordan acquire these territories back in 1948, if not by force, Mr. Carter? Or what is ILLEGAL for Jews is somehow LEGAL for the Arabs?

    July 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Reply

    Israel is no small and the Muslims territory is so big, but they want to get rid of the jews that have been in this territory for 3000 years, Muslims are selfish and ignorants.

    July 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Well, look at the great achievements of the countries that succeeded to get rid of their Jews... Start from ancient Egypt that was gobbled first by the Greeks, then by Romans and finally by the Arabs; continue through the medieval Spain that was the most powerful empire on the planet but turned into a second class coutnry; go through the Nazi Germany, post war Poland, the Soviet Union and, finally, look at the Arab countries as well as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. and you'll realize that hating Jews is harmful and even dangerous.

      July 25, 2013 at 5:40 am | Reply
    • Faruq

      The majority of Jews in Israel emigrated from Europe and have not lived in that land for thousands of years.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:16 am | Reply
      • Truth?

        Truth, Faruq? The real Naqba is the greater than 1 million Jews who were thrown out or fled Arab lands since 1945, all of whom were resettled in Israel. No UN Refugee camps, no terrorist groups formed to reclaim their property or lands- just resettled and started over with the little they had.

        July 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Faruq: Israel is a SOVEREIGN STATE and, like every sovereign state, it has the right to determine who can and who can not come and stay within its borders. IT'S NOT ISRAEL'S BUSINESS to decide who can and who can not immigrate to Saudi Arabia or Iran and IT'S NOT THEIR (or YOUR, for this purpose) business to decide who can and who can not immigrate to Israel.

        Did I make myself clear enough?

        July 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
      • Hans

        Liar, more than 60% of the Jews living in Israel were born there.

        July 28, 2013 at 6:05 am |
      • hard124get

        Wrong, they are East European converts and DNA has proved they never came from the Middle East.

        September 12, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • hard124get

      None of Israel's neighbors lift a finger to help Palestine. They are run by dictators loyal to US and Israel.

      September 12, 2013 at 12:30 am | Reply
  4. kanees

    Same way, Europeans, Africans, Russians got rid of them.Americans are trying.what is it that everybody hates them. there must b smthing.

    July 25, 2013 at 4:15 am | Reply
  5. rie matsumoto

    Hello,Today's watch program.
    pope keep praying love:).
    北極圏,温暖化について,危機感を 持ちなさい. 遅いくらいだ.

    Have a nice day all
    rie matsumoto.

    July 25, 2013 at 6:56 am | Reply
  6. felix ogugbuaja

    The greater threat to isreal is Iran, I don't think that peace between Isreal and the Arabs can be achieved.

    July 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  7. KEVIN

    If Kerry does not actuate something very significant and long standing/permanent he is going to go down in history as worthless.

    July 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  8. DAN

    Peace means concessions on both sides.
    However, the situation in the region (Egypt, others)
    may go the wrong direction and undermine any peace process.
    Considering figures, it seems 40% of the Jews living in Israel did NOT come from Europe or former USSR?
    In the past, Iran and Israel also cooperated... Nothing is impossible, even peace. It is a matter of choice.

    July 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  9. Dan

    Carter the antisemite giving an interview to Amanpour, the Iranian ant-Israel antisemite. Two of a kind!!

    July 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  10. jimd

    The Arabs will always hate the Jews – peace is not possible through a political process. Just look at thousands of years of history between the two and Carter thinks its possible during his watch. Ha.

    July 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  11. Hans

    Amanpour hates the Jews for many years now. No piece of hers regarding the Jews is trustworthy!!!

    July 29, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply
  12. barry wicksman


    July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
  13. james

    Israel as a nation has gone through so much.first it was the arabs who settled in jews land when they were exiled so when the jews came back they were simply taking what was theirs know that.

    July 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Reply
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