"The Elders' View Of the Middle East"

Jimmy Carter offers a one-state solution under a headline inviting his critics

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Perennial lightning rod Jimmy Carter is once again stoking passions on both sides of the political divide with a headline on The Washington Post op-ed page that was just asking for it. Besides inviting comparisons to an infamous anti-Semitic tome, "The Elders' View Of the Middle East," has the former president recollecting recent trips to the Middle East with other secular and religious leaders. A description of Gaza as a "walled-in-ghetto inhabited by 1.6 million Palestinians" provided the first flashpoint, but Carter's piece reaches its most incendiary when he appears to back-off his previous position of a two-state solution to the conflict.

A more likely alternative to the present debacle is one state, which is obviously the goal of Israeli leaders who insist on colonizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A majority of the Palestinian leaders with whom we met are seriously considering acceptance of one state, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbors and then demand equal rights within a democracy. In this nonviolent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

The Reaction

  • Carter's Dreaming, responds Elliot Abrams in his own Washington Post op-ed, mixing equal parts vitriol and eloquence: "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."
  • Abrams is Right, Jennifer Rubin cheers at Commentary. She also contributes to the pile-on, accusing Carter of ignoring recent polling data indicating improving conditions in Gaza, eventually concluding with a condemnation of the Post for running him at all: "After all, it isn’t as if Carter doesn’t have a place to peddle his venom. He can always slink over to J Street’s website or Al Jazeera, both of which no doubt would be happy to have an Israel-bashing rant from an ex-president."
  • No, Zionists Are Dreaming. Backing Carter is self-described "Anti-Zionist" Philip Weiss, who says that the former President's vantage point is superior to that of the current administration: "Carter acknowledges a reality that Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and progressive Zionists too are resisting, but that Netanyahu/Sharon/Olmert/Barak have established, a single state between the river and the sea and, yes, a struggle for democracy and an end to the dream of a Jewish state."
  • Carter Isn't Kidding. Blogger Stephen Smoliar commends Carter for being pragmatic about his goals for peace in the Middle East, and makes an unlikely but insightful comparison to another American icon: "He has decided to open his mind to the viability of a one-state solution, a possibility that seems to have progressed only in the fictional world of You Don't Mess with the Zohan.Carter, however, has invoked far more sober language than Adam Sandler."

Updated September 9, 9:00 a.m. Last night, the Washington Post posted a brief retort from Carter to Elliott Abrams.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.