Jimmy Carter is at it again. In the New York Times for November 28, he’s once again offering his unsolicited advice as to how, in the last two months of the Obama administration, the U.S. can “shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” before a Trump administration takes power. Yes, you read that correctly: in the considered opinion of our 39th president, it is within the power of the current administration, over the next two months (53 days, to be exact), to shape the future and begin the realization of a two-state solution. Of course, in Mr. Carter’s four years as president he was not able to accomplish that feat, which he calls “the foreign policy goal of my life.” But, never mind that—in the next two months, it can be done.
And how is the feat to be accomplished? Simple, says our former president: all that is necessary is that the U.S. (a) recognize the state of Palestine, (b) help Palestine achieve full membership in the United Nations, and (c) support a resolution of the U.N. Security Council “laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict.” And the very first thing that U.N. resolution would do is to “reaffirm the illegality of all Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 borders, while leaving open the possibility that the parties could negotiate modifications.” Yes, that obviously ought to be the very first parameter established, because obviously the biggest obstacle to a peaceful resolution is the Israeli settlements.
What possible objection could there be to the former president’s suggestions? Well, there might be one or two. (Just as a theoretical matter, one might ask, if the 1967 green lines were actually “borders” as Mr. Carter says they were, why didn’t Mr. Carter recognize Palestine as a state when he was president, well after those “borders” had been drawn? But that, I suppose, is neither here nor there.) One question is who governs Palestine? One might say that the government of Palestine is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, but there are one or two questions that that answer raises, as well. Mr. Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president in 2005, so he is now serving out the eleventh year of his four-year term. That is awkward.
There is a second, more fundamental, question regarding the “government” of Palestine. We’ve all been told that the future state will consist of the West Bank, Gaza, and a capital in East Jerusalem. One might well wonder, therefore, why Abbas, the “president” of the state-to-be, has not even set foot in Gaza since 2007. After all, he supposedly governs a pretty small amount of territory, one would think that he would get around to visiting all of it from time to time.
Mr. Abbas has stayed out of Gaza since 2007 because, with good reason, he doesn’t relish the idea of being assassinated. In 2007, the “government” of Palestine, headed by Abbas, was thrown out of Gaza in a violent, deadly coup perpetrated by the Islamist terrorist group Hamas. The name “Hamas” is not mentioned in Mr. Carter’s op-ed for the NY Times, nor is the fact that the “government” headed by (perpetual?) Pres. Abbas does not govern Gaza. Rather, Gaza is governed by Islamist terrorists who sincerely believe they have a religious duty to erase Israel and establish an Islamic state in its place. They dig tunnels into Israel to literally undermine peace and they lob rockets into Israel when they deem it advantageous to do so. Still, it would be difficult to say which Hamas hates more: the government of Israel of the “government” headed by Mr. Abbas. This is a second awkward fact ignored by Mr. Carter.
In light of Hamas’ control over Gaza, the real-world effect of the proposals advance by Mr. Carter would certainly be very different from what he imagines. If Palestine becomes a state with full control over its borders, one can be certain that Hamas and other Islamist terrorist groups among the Palestinians will be able to import, legally or illegally, ever more sophisticated weaponry with which to attack Israel. The “government” of Mr. Abbas has neither the will nor the ability to rein in Hamas—that has been demonstrated over the nine years since Hamas seized control in Gaza. A Palestinian state, with terrorists in control of Gaza, is a perfect formula for never-ending, ever-escalating conflict.
No state in the world would permit a neighboring state, whether a member of the U.N. or not, to fire rockets into its territory or dig tunnels beneath its borders. The government of Israel, which reflects the actual democratic will of its people as expressed in elections that are regularly held in accordance with regular procedures, would never agree to what no other government would accept. Until the Palestinian people can organize themselves under a government that actually governs all the territory (including Gaza), and actually would be able to ensure that Israel would enjoy peace and security alongside a Palestinian state, Mr. Carter ought to stick to fighting tropical diseases. News reports indicate he is good at that.