Writing in The Washington Post, Jimmy Carter addresses the points raised by Elliott Abrams' criticism of his earlier op-ed on the Arab-Israeli conflict and suggests why the American initiative to rekindle peace efforts should be supported.
I notice that Elliott Abrams has contradicted some points in my Sept. 6 op-ed "The Elders' View of the Middle East" (though my suggested title, "What Next for the Holy Land," would have been a better headline).
Abrams' main point is about the Palestinians' halcyon life under occupation, with more than 40 percent of their West Bank now controlled by Israel and with only isolated pockets of land available for them. 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. The most recent count by the World Bank is that 605 "check points" on the remaining West Bank roads still obstruct movement among Palestinian communities. This infrastructure, like a spider web, connects the Jordan River valley in the East to Jerusalem and other Israeli cities in the West.
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. Also, he 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. Also, in a meeting last week with a large group of prominent Israeli business and professional leaders, their most vehement, and uncontradicted, statement was, "Israel's worst mistake has been building settlements in the West Bank."
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.
What all of us should do is support the American initiative to rekindle a genuine effort for peace and security for all those who live in the Holy Land.
The writer was the 39th president. He founded The Carter Center, a nongovernmental organisation focused on global peace and health issues.