More Links in News & Events

Geneva Initiative Public Commitment Event: Remarks by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

By Jimmy Carter

I want to express my gratitude and admiration to Yossi Beilin, Yasser Abed Rabbo, their fellow negotiators, and to Alexis Keller and Swiss officials for making this ceremony possible. Finding peace for Israelis and justice for the Palestinians has been a personal interest of mine for more than a quarter of a century, and I would like to make a few observations:

1.This Geneva initiative offers the crucial and unavoidable elements of a permanent peace in the Holy Land. There will be inevitable modifications to this agreement if and when official and sincere peace talks are ever conducted, but the basic premises must remain intact. The alternative is sustained and permanent violence.

This agreement would resolve the conflict's most critical issues, including border delineations, Israeli settlements, the excessive occupation of Palestinian lands, the future of Jerusalem and its holy places, and the extremely troubling question of Palestinian refugees. It is unlikely that we shall ever see a more promising foundation for peace.

2. We must remember that this Geneva initiative is completely compatible with the final vision of the Quartet Roadmap fashioned by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. What is very important is that the initiative overcomes what seems to be a fatal flaw of the Roadmap: the laborious and easily aborted step-by-step procedure. Its first basic phase has been substantially rejected, as the Israeli government has ignored mild objections from the Bush administration and continued to colonize Gaza and the far reaches of the West Bank and build an enormous barrier wall on Palestinian land, and the Palestinians have demanded the withdrawal of all Israeli settlements, a return to the pre-1967 border, and the right of unlimited return to refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars.

There are continuing violent attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups and increasingly harsh reprisals from Israel.

This proposed plan permits more than half of the Israeli settlers to remain permanently in the West Bank, limits the return of Palestinian refugees, and provides for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, connected to Gaza by a secure highway. Satellite imagery has defined a border between the two states down to the level of individual homes and their gardens. Unrestricted access by specific routes is guaranteed to East Jerusalem's holy places.

First responses from the general public have been encouraging. When the Institute headed by James Baker, Secretary of State to George Bush, Sr., presented these basic premises in an opinion poll, 53.3 percent of Israelis and 55.6 percent of Palestinians approved.

The people support a settlement. Political leaders are the obstacles to peace.

3. Experience in the Holy Land has shown that hopelessness leads to violence, but the prospect for justice leads to peaceful coexistence. Calm and relative co-operation prevailed after the successful negotiations at Camp David twenty-five years ago, (not a word of the peace treaty has ever been violated), after the Oslo agreement of 1993, and during and after the Palestinian elections of 1996. These were times when moderate leadership and sound judgment prevailed, and there was hope that further progress would be made.

Tragically, radical and violent actions subsequently intruded, exemplified by the assassinations of peacemakers President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the unconscionable suicide bombings, missile and bomb attacks, destruction of homes, and other acts of violence that continue today.

4. Except for the Oslo agreement ten years ago, the balanced mediation of the United States has been the sustaining force in peace efforts during the past half century, while the European community and the United Nations have remained relatively aloof. This was understandable during previous years, but the present administration in Washington has been invariably supportive of Israel, and the well-being of the Palestinian people has been ignored or relegated to secondary importance. Without a restoration of strong and unbiased American influence, Israeli and Palestinian extremists will prevail in their opposition to this or any other peace initiative.

5. There is no doubt that the lack of real effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a primary source of anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and a major incentive for terrorist activity.

Like the ultimate vision of the Quartet Roadmap, this proposal fulfills the premises of the peace plan proposed last year by the Arab League, which includes full recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace. This action and an Arab commitment to prevent further violence initiated by extremist Palestinian groups must be a prerequisite to a final agreement.

There is an impressive continuity of unchanging basic issues, expressed most clearly and succinctly in U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which were passed unanimously after the 1967 war. They require, in effect, a withdrawal of Israel from occupied territories in exchange for ensured peace and recognition from all Arab governments and other organizations.

With massive financial and political incentives from the Israeli government during the past decade, the number of new settlers on Palestinian land has sky-rocketed, with many settlements protected by military forces and connected to others by secure highways.

No matter what leaders the Palestinians might choose, how fervent American interest might be, or how great the hatred and bloodshed might become, there remains one basic choice for the Israelis: Do we want permanent peace with all our neighbors, or do we want to retain our settlements throughout the occupied territories?

And it is of equal importance that the Palestinians renounce violence against Israeli citizens in exchange for the commitments of this Geneva initiative.

The world community is eager to support the positive responses.

Donate Now

Sign Up For Email

Please sign up below for important news about the work of The Carter Center and special event invitations.

Please leave this field empty
Now, we invite you to Get Involved
Back To Top