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Carter against US veto on Palestine statehood

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. (Reuters/Antony Njuguna)

By Barbara Ferguson | Arab News / Washington / 20 Sept 2011

Former US President Jimmy Carter has called on Washington not to veto a Palestinian application for the UN recognition of their state in the Security Council.

Carter, the first American president to call for the creation of a Palestinian “homeland” in 1977, brokered the landmark Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1988.

“If I were president, I'd be very glad to see the Palestinians have a nation recognized by the United Nations,” Carter told National Public Radio on Sunday. “There's no downside to it.”

“There’s been basically a 34-year period of unfulfilled expectations by the Palestinians that Israel would carry out the promises it made to me, and to Egypt, and to the Palestinians and to the rest of the world.

“They’ve not been willing to do so, and they still occupy Palestine and they’ve built ever more settlements and the Palestinians do not have any more rights, human rights and political rights that they had when I was president — in ancient times,” said the former US president.

When asked how this move would actually help the Palestinians get closer to having an actual independent state, Carter said: “The only alternative is the maintenance of its status quo.

“Every day, as you well know, the Israelis are building more and more settlements, confiscating more and more of Palestinian land and depriving the Palestinians of their basic human and political rights and that’s a status quo that’s unacceptable to the Palestinian people and should be unacceptable to the rest of the world.”

Reminded that Israel is “vehemently” opposed to this and has asked the US to back Israel on this issue, Carter was asked what motivation or reason would President Obama have not to veto the vote when he is up for re-election next year?

Carter admitted such a move “could have adverse effects, perhaps, on his political future.

“I faced the same prospect when I was president; I talked the Israelis into giving up the occupation of the Sinai region to Egypt, in a peace treaty that came six months after the Camp David accords.”

But he reminded NPR that the president, in two previous speeches, has called for the end of Israeli settlements, and “earlier this year, called for the 1967 borders to prevail, with some modifications.”

Asked if he thought this UN vote for nonmember status would really change anything for the Palestinians, Carter said: “Yes.”

“Let’s just assume that in the General Assembly there is a vote following a veto in the Security Council by the US, the status of Palestine will be almost identical to what it is with the Vatican now, and what it has been, on an interim basis, with new coming nations in the past.

“So it won’t be a full member of the UN, but it will have certain privileges of membership in international organizations.”

Finally, he was asked if he thought if the US will be on the wrong side of history on this. He said: “I believe so,” and added that “the United States’ influence among the Palestinians and inside Israel is at the lowest point it's been in the last 60 years.”

Another Mideast expert, Aaron David Miller, former Mideast diplomat for the State Department, took the opposite view of Carter’s.

Referring to the upcoming vote, Miller said the vote would not bring the Palestinians “any closer to realizing their national aspirations. It may not be a disaster, but it is certainly not going to help create the kinds of circumstances and environment that are critically important if you are ever going to get a two-state solution,” he told journalists on Monday.

Miller said he thought there were many dangers that could emanate from the vote. “Worst case you have a situation where the Israelis react in a bad way. They withhold tax transfers, they impose additional check points. The Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation is undermined because Congress decides that it wants to withhold assistance (congressional Republicans and Democrats have threatened to cut off some $500 million in economic and security assistance to the Palestinians if they defy the United States and Israel by seeking statehood).

“Violence ensues, you get frustration on the streets, the move sparks celebration which ends up massing thousands of people, day after day, borrowing from the Arab Spring, they press against the check points and they press against the settlements. And you get a confrontation between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.

Miller added that if Palestine does become a nonmember state, “assuming the host bodies agree,” it could have access to “organizations like the ICC, the criminal court, or International Court of Justice and they begin to press their claims against Israel in these forums, and you get an on-going propaganda war, a kind of tic versus tock, which replaces negotiations and we’re all left, further than ever, than where we want to be.”

Asked if the US should veto a UN resolution in the Security Council that would grant a Palestinian statehood, Miller, who is currently a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said: “The answer is: Absolutely. We should veto a campaign to gain membership in the UN as a member state.”


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