Tags: Barack Obama | Iran | ISIS/Islamic State | Israel | Jimmy Carter | Israel | Egypt

Jimmy Carter: From Nobel Prize to 'Terrorist' Ties

By    |   Monday, 29 December 2014 01:53 PM

The image is iconic.

On March 26, 1979, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat clasped hands at the White House in Washington after signing an agreement that would end 31 years of war between the countries.

Standing between the leaders was President Jimmy Carter, who brokered the deal after a tense 13-day summit at Camp David in Maryland in which both parties threatened to walk out daily.

The Camp David accords — reached in principle on Sept. 17, 1978 — led Begin and Sadat to receive the Nobel Peace Prize that year and solidified the Democratic president as a strong supporter of Israel and a champion of world peace.

After losing the White House to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980, Carter established the Carter Center two years later with his wife, Rosalynn, to continue his global humanitarian work.

He won his own Nobel prize in 2002 for his human-rights work. Carter turned 90 on Oct. 1.

But those years have also seen Carter voicing strong anti-Israel views and support for terrorist groups. His 2006 book — "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" — came under widespread attack for asserting that Israel's settlement on Palestinian land was the main impediment to peace in the Middle East.

He also has met with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being too eager to go to war with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Last August, Carter spoke at an event in Detroit sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America, identified by the Justice Department as a terrorist group — and he has long backed Hamas in its conflict with Israel.

"Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise," Carter and former Ireland President Mary Robinson wrote in an op-ed piece in Foreign Policy magazine that same month. "Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor — one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people — can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons."

Carter's support for Hamas has brought harsh attacks from Jewish leaders, who charge that they reflect a long-simmering anti-Semitism on the part of the 39th president.

"He had a latent hostility toward Israel when he was president, which has now come to the surface and is frequently expressed in ill-informed criticism of Israel and support for the organizations like Hamas that seek Israel's destruction," Mitchell Bard, executive director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, told Newsmax.

"Mr. Carter has never met an Islamic terrorist that he didn’t like," Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the American Center for Democracy, told "America's Forum's" host J.D. Hayworth on Newsmax TV. "The older he's gotten, the more supportive he has become of … others who are really not supporting anything that is written in the American Constitution."

Perhaps one of Carter's strongest critics is former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, who has slammed the former president as "an all-out cheerleader for Hamas" — and has suggested that he could be violating U.S. law in calling for backing the terrorist group.

"Jimmy Carter wants the United States and the European community to recognize Hamas, to legitimate it," said Dershowitz, who also is a Newsmax columnist. "It's against the law in the United States, even if you're a former president, it's against the law to provide material support to a listed terrorist organization — and Jimmy Carter's coming awfully close to that line."

Dershowitz has even charged that Carter's statements in recent months calling for the bombing of the Islamic State (ISIS) and attacking President Barack Obama for not doing so sooner smacked of hypocrisy.

"The very idea that former President Carter, who presided over a foreign policy that enabled Iran to overthrow the Shah and substitute the first radical Islamic terrorist regime, would say that President Obama did not do enough to prevent the growth of ISIS would be laughable if it were not so pathetic," he wrote in a Newsmax column.

Carter did not respond to a Newsmax request to be interviewed for this report.

But Lawrence Wright, author of the new book — "Thirteen Days in September" — which details the inside drama of the Camp David negotiations, said that Jewish leaders were long wary of Carter — and that distrust intensified after the accords were signed.

"Carter was always the subject of suspicion for Jewish leaders," Wright told Newsmax in an interview. "He was a deep-water Baptist from rural South Georgia, and he was not the kind of political figure that was readily recognized or trusted by American Jewish leaders.

"After Camp David, there was a bad feeling on the part of many Jews that he forced Israel to sign this peace agreement — and he became the first Democratic nominee not to receive a majority of the Jewish vote. So the turn against him was immediate among Jewish leaders in the U.S.

"In Israel, there's still a bad feeling about Carter and it was amplified by his book, 'Peace Not Apartheid' — but the truth is that discourse is used in Israel all the time," Wright added. "It's just not the kind of thing they want to hear from an outsider, especially an American."

Carter overwhelmingly won the Jewish vote when he first ran for office in 1976, 64 percent to Republican President Gerald Ford's 34 percent. That was helped by his support during the presidential debates for a bill that would bar U.S. corporations from complying with an Arab boycott of Israel.

But two years later, Carter's administration agreed to sell advance weapons to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The deal was seen as a slap to Israel by Jewish leaders.

It "created a lot of tension with the pro-Israel community, which did not believe the Saudis either needed or had earned the weapons that they were being sold — and a significant portion of the Congress believed that as well," said Bard, who also is executive director of the Jewish Virtual Library.

"They thought that he was trying to take advantage of the support that the pro-Israel community was giving to the arms sale to Egypt and also to Israel and that by making it a package, he was trying to force the pro-Israel community to support something that they believed was not in Israel's or America's best interest."

He added: "They were already angry, and this was just one more thing that was creating a fear that a second term could be even worse."

Bard also cited Carter's 1980 speech in which he talked of Israel's right to live within "secure and recognized borders" — "and just in general speaking in ways that were not sympathetic to Israel's position."

Despite its significance, the Camp David agreement did not endear Carter with Jewish voters, either, Bard said. Begin agreed to give up the oil fields in the Sinai Peninsula, withdrawing Israeli defense forces over three years in return for Egypt ending its state of war and establishing peace.

Egypt captured the region in the Six-Day War in 1967.

"He believes that Menachem Begin lied to him about a settlement freeze, which in fact he didn't," Bard said.

He acknowledged the American president's role as broker, adding, however: "It would have never happened if it weren't for how bad Carter's policies were.

"The whole reason that Sadat went to Jerusalem [in 1977] was because he thought Carter's policies were so bad that if he didn't do something on his own to try to advance Egypt's interest, then he would never achieve his goals," he said.

Carter's objective at the time was an international conference to discuss Mideast peace, Bard explained, "and Sadat understood better than anyone else that would make it impossible to reach any agreement, because it would essentially give a veto to the most radical or most anti-Israel members of the conference, notably the Syrians."

Wright retorted that Jewish criticism of the president stepped up "right after Camp David."

"Many Jews felt that he had bullied Israel into the Camp David agreement — and Carter told me that he was accosted by Benjamin Netanyahu, who blamed him for forcing Israel to return Sinai.

"The Camp David accords are not loved either in Israel or in Egypt," Wright added. "That's why it's called a 'cold' peace — and this indicates how difficult it was to make the sacrifices that they did at Camp David."

The anger among Jewish Democrats played out strongly at the polls in 1980, when Carter sought re-election against Republican Ronald Reagan.

The incumbent received the lowest percentage of Jewish votes since the New Deal, 45 percent, to Reagan's 39 percent — but the independent candidate, John Anderson, drew 15 percent.

Reagan had strongly backed Israel since 1948, and much of the ethnic Jewish press was more against Carter rather than it was for either Reagan or Anderson.

"Originally, they expected him to be very supportive president," Bard said. However, "Jews turned on him in droves in the election," he added, "which really was indicative of how severe his policies were viewed, not just toward Israel but also toward the country as a whole."

Many Jewish leaders believe that these issues now fuel Carter's public support for Hamas and other anti-Israel groups that have been endorsed by the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama is reportedly considering whether to impose sanctions on Israel in an effort to stop housing construction projects in eastern Jerusalem. The possibility arises as the administration is lobbying strongly against new prohibitions on Iran over its illegal nuclear weapons program.

"All you have to do is read the Hamas charter, and you know what their motivations and goals are — and they repeat them constantly in public," Bard told Newsmax. "They don't hide what their objectives are, and Carter's always thought that if people would just sit down with him in a room, he would be able to convince them of the err of their ways and things would be all right.

"But he just doesn't understand — doesn’t want to understand, apparently — what these groups really believe, and he'd rather simply believe in what he wishes things were rather than what they really are."

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The image is iconic. On March 26, 1979, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat clasped hands at the White House in Washington after signing an agreement that would end 31 years of war between the countries.
Jimmy Carter, Israel, Egypt, Hamas
Monday, 29 December 2014 01:53 PM
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