Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He should eat lead and die

Or so, it would seem, is the official Israeli attitude toward Jimmy Carter. Reuters reported on Monday that
Israel's secret service has declined to assist U.S. agents guarding former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a visit in which Israeli leaders have shunned him....

American sources close to the matter said the Shin Bet security service, which helps protect visiting dignitaries and is overseen by [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert's office, declined to meet the head of Carter's Secret Service security detail or provide his team with assistance as is customary during such visits.

"They're not getting support from local security," an American source said.

Another source described the snub as an "unprecedented" breach between the Israeli Shin Bet and the U.S. Secret Service, which protects all current and former U.S. presidents, as well as Israeli leaders when they visit the United States.
(Link via Raw Story.)

Carter aroused the anger of the Israelis by referring to its policies in the occupied territories - quite accurately - as "apartheid" and by including in his plans for his current Mideast trip a meeting with Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, in Syria. Carter remarked that
I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process....
But Israel has no interest in meeting with Hamas or even in reaching any sort of agreement. I charged last October that
it has been some time since Israel showed a genuine interest in peace - provided we assume that "peace" can be differentiated from "dominance."
For one egregious example (beyond the several at the above link), just over a year ago, I observed that Olmert had shortly before told Time magazine that Israel "could not accept the return of even a single Palestinian refugee to Israel." That is, his government rejected the "right of return" in toto. As I said at the time, that is a deal breaker: The "right of return" is as deeply emotional an issue among Palestinians as the nature of Israel is among Israelis, and a demand that Palestinians give up on even a limited, symbolic right of return has the same impact on them as a demand that Israel cease being a Jewish state would have on Israelis. The point here is that there is no way in hell Olmert does not know that. His government's policy makes a real settlement impossible.

(Yes, I am aware that Hamas's founding charter called for destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. I also know that the existence of that 1988 document has been used to reject as lies any less-radical statements in the years since. So if you either feel as many Israelis do about what that document says or understand how they feel, you should be able to understand how Palestinians feel about a rejection of the right of return and understand, then, why an outright rejection of it is a major roadblock to long-term peace.)

So Israeli authorities, who shunned Carter except for a pro forma meeting with President Shimon Peres, whose position is largely ceremonial, decided further to show their displeasure with the man who brokered the first Arab-Israeli peace agreement by denying him the usual security assistance shown to foreign dignitaries. They thereby knowingly increased the risk to his life - especially as his itinerary took him to a southern Israeli town with "problematic" security. The actual risk to Carter's safety was doubtless small and the difference made by the lack of cooperation smaller still, but it did not make zero difference. Being a critic of Israel apparently makes your life less worthy of protection.

It's a lesson about which Rachael Corrie could have taught him.

Footnote: The Israeli government's stand was not universally approved. The Israeli daily Haaretz praised Carter in an editorial, saying
[t]he boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government's history. ...

Carter's method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.
There are rejectionists and realists, the cruel and the compassionate, on both sides of the Isreali-Palestinian divide. We must never forget that.

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