Former president Jimmy Carter didn’t even discuss peace with the Palestinian leadership because he knows that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.”
The troubling statement comes as the former president was wrapping up his three-day mission to Israel and the West Bank on Saturday night.
The assessment is a fresh take on an old conflict and seems to cut to the heart of the matter. Despite much international pressure and assistance, there does not seem to be any real prospect of peace.
On the final day of his reelection campaign in March, hardliner Netanyahu said that as long as he serves as prime minister, there will not be an independent Palestinian state.
After his decisive victory, Netanyahu sought to retract his remarks by explaining that the time was not right and that the Middle East was too dangerous for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu backtracked on MSNBC in an interview in March.
Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution to the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict stunned the White House, who views, along with the world, a two state solution as the only possible outcome.
In East Jerusalem on Saturday, Carter, 90, said that he and former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, did not ask for a meeting with Netanyahu or his cabinet because they saw no indication such a meeting would be accepted.
“It would be a waste of time to ask,” Carter said.
Brundtland said, “They don’t want to listen to views they don’t agree with.”
A senior spokesman for Netanyahu said that his office had no comment.
Carter came to Israel as a leader of the Elders, an independent group of former leaders who advocate for peace and human rights, first constructed by Nelson Mandela in 2007.
The delegation originally planned to go to the Gaza Strip and meet with Hamas leaders, but the trip was canceled at the last minute due to “severe” security challenges.
Carter advocates negotiations with Hamas, a group that the United States and Israel consider a terror organization, yet is elected by Palestinians to represent them under free and fair elections.
Carter called the lack of reconstruction in Gaza “intolerable.” He said: “Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt, and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Carter's mission draws attention to how dire the situation is in Palestine and how Israel's hardline stance is deeply problematic in the region. For the United States the situation is tricky, because Israel is a key ally in the region as well as a key customer of U.S. military hardware.