Ancient Conflict, Aging Officials

Jimmy Carter and Elliot Abrams trade blows over the Middle East in the op-ed section of the Washington Post

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As the Atlantic Wire wrote on Tuesday, Jimmy Carter's Washington Post op-ed "The Elders' View of the Middle East" provoked a swift and decidedly split reaction among commentators on the right and left. However, it was only Elliot Abrams, also writing for the Post, who provoked Carter enough that the former President felt compelled to respond in-turn. The highlights of their cross-opinion section spat so far are as follows:

On First-Hand Observations

Carter: "During the past 16 months I have visited the Middle East four times and met with leaders in Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza."

Abrams: "As with most of Carter's recent statements about Israel and the Palestinians, instead of facts we get vignettes from recent Carter travels."

On the Palestinian Mood

Carter: "We found a growing sense of concern and despair among those who observe, as we did, that [Israeli] settlement expansion is continuing apace, rapidly encroaching into Palestinian villages, hilltops, grazing lands, farming areas and olive groves. There are more than 200 of these settlements in the West Bank."

Abrams: "In fact, positive views of personal and family safety and security in the West Bank stood at 25 percent four years ago, 35 percent two years ago and 43 percent a year ago, and they have risen to 58 percent in the past year, Shikaki reports."

On Isolation

Carter: "As I stated, there are more than 200 Israeli settlements, connected by a system of roadways on which Palestinians are often forbidden to drive or, in some cases, even to cross."

Abrams: "Gaza is not an enclave surrounded by Israel; it has a border with Egypt. Every commodity that Carter says is needed can be supplied by Egypt, a point he overlooks in his efforts to blame Palestinian problems exclusively on the Jewish state."
Carter: "Abrams is thoroughly familiar with the binding contract between Israel and Egypt, such that Israel has retained ultimate control over movement of people and goods from Gaza into Egypt."

On Freezing the Settlements

Abrams: "Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter's claim that "a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key" to a peace agreement. Not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza -- no, the sole "key" is Israeli settlements."

Carter:  "[Abrams] knows that President Obama, peace envoy George Mitchell, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, most European leaders, and many others agree that Israel's massive settlement structure is the primary obstacle to peace -- if a two-state option is to remain a viable goal."

On Nonviolence

Abrams: "Instead of appealing for support for the serious and practical work of institution-building that the Palestinian Authority has begun, Carter fantasizes about a "nonviolent civil rights struggle" that bears no relationship to the terrorist violence that has plagued Palestinian society, and killed Israelis, for decades."

Carter: "The increasingly likely but deplorable remaining choice of one single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River would, at best, result in non-violent demands by Palestinians for full citizenship status. At worst, an armed struggle would erupt, much more costly in bloodshed than the first and second intifadas."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.