01 March 2009

2762) President Carter's New Book, The Middle East And Turkey

The 39th President of the United States of America, James E. Carter, has written another book about the Middle East, “We can have Peace in the Holy Land – A Plan that Will Work.” . .

The author of 23 books since he left the office, the Nobel Peace Laureate and former President argues that the present time is unique time for achieving peace in the Middle East and offers a plan. He also states that the new President of the United States is facing a major opportunity and responsibility to lead in ending conflict between Israel and its neighbors. However, there is nothing in the 13 chapters of the 228 page on Turkey’s role in bringing peace to the region.

This is all that the former President writes about Turkey.

“There were some informal and indirect peace talks going on between Syria and Israel arranged through Turkey, but Assad was very eager to have the United States involved.” P. 128

“Bush knew, in fact, that Israel was negotiating, through Egypt, with Hamas and that there were indirect Syria-Israel talks being sponsored by Turkey.”’ P. 146

“According to Turkish intermediaries, the United States withdrew its opposition to the Syrian - Israeli negotiations in June 2008, but was still not supportive.” P. 175

The book is dedicated “To people of faith who still trust that God, with our help, will bring peace to the Holy Land.”

With all due respects to the Nobel Laureate, I am afraid there will never be peace in the Holy Land as long as Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital and has no plans to retreat back to the 1967 borders or listen to anyone anymore, let alone President Carter who has been declared a persona non-Grata in Israel.

President Carter has always been known to be a friend of Turkey, especially after his bold action of lifting the American embargo against Turkey after the just intervention of Turkey in Cyprus in 1974, which this year marks the 35th anniversary of the victory against the Greeks and the Greek-Cypriots. When in 1978 my son had asked me for a report that he was writing about America who I thought was the greatest American President, I had not hesitated to tell him it was Carter. He might not have been the greatest president but has done much to help bring peace and houses for a tiny portion of needy around the world through his “Habitat for Humanity Project” after he left the office. While on the subject of who was who, President Woodrow Wilson gave his place as the worst President to Bush who will be remembered as the man who changed the world for the worst. President Carter is probably at the center. All power to President Obama who has promised change in many fields, which should include the way Americans view Turkey. However, President Carter’s book leaves a lot to be desired.

Turkey has been involved in the Middle Eastern affairs for many years which continues today, despite the Davos incident, even though Israelis have been reluctant to take advise from the Turkish officials. May be this might change after the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey next week, carrying President Obama’s message that Israel heed the UN Resolutions and stop killing innocent Palestinians and that Hamas should get her act together and recognize Israel’s right to existence.

The book begins with a brief review of the history of the region, going back to journey of Abraham from Ur through Harran to Canaan about 2000 BC (that is 4000 years ago), the Israelites' enslavement in Egypt about five hundred years later, the rule of Kings David and Solomon about 1000 BC (that is 3000 years ago), and on to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the famous Temple about five hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ. President Carter writes that he learned all these plus stories about the other great prophets during Sunday schools. Reciting the story of Jews throughout history, Carter states that Muslims controlled Palestine (and Jerusalem) until the end of World war I. Incredibly, there is no mention of the just rule of the Ottoman Turks.

The second chapter tells the story of Carter’s visit to Israel together with his wife Rosalyn in 1973 and his involvement with Israel. In “Peace at Camp David”, the President tells about his greatest achievement in bringing Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel in 1979, exactly 30 years ago. Most of the other chapters are listing of events, usually meetings held by Carter with important people. In the last chapter, Carter presents brief summary of the involvement of the countries around Israel (Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine,) but has no room for Turkey. He boldly states that, from his personal experience, the influence of the US Government is limited and goes on to present an agenda for Peace which includes:

-A demilitarized Palestine state
-Mutually acceptable modifications to the 1967 border
-A sharing of Jerusalem, which would be the capital of both states
-The right of Palestinians to return to the West Bank and Gaza
-Reconciliation of the Palestinians and unity between Gaza and the West Bank
- A specific time limit for the consummation of these goals

The book also has a wealth of information on the population estimates, UN Resolution 242 of 1967, Camp David Accords of 1978, Arab Peace Proposal of 2002, Key Points of International Quartet’s Roadmap for peace of 2003 and Israel’s response to it. The most recent population estimates are 5,552,000 Jews and 5,385,00 Arabs in the Holy Land, plus 318,000 other non-Jews. President Carter defines the “Holy Land”, a phrase from Christian tradition, as the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterrenean and includes the holy place claimed by the Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

President Obama has been elected with his promise of “Change”, which will undoubtedly include a change in the US perspective in the Middle east and the Holy Lands, which is another tall order.

Yuksel Oktay
1 March 2009,
New Jersey


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