"This particular settlement area is not one I envisage ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory," former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told journalists on Sunday, referring to Gush Etzion. He made the remarks after meeting Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman Sha'ul Goldstein in his home at Neveh Daniel.
"He was never here before," Goldstein explained, "and thank G-d, he has carried out the first step - a very important one - of coming out here… I think Mr. Carter leaves this place somewhat different from the way he came in.” He added that he believes Carter will report to U.S. President Barack Obama about his visit. Goldstein expressed hope that Obama will visit Yesha (Judea and Samaria) as well.
Goldstein said that Carter is trying to “think out of the box,” and that his impression is that the former president is really trying to bring peace to the area. Goldstein told Carter that he thinks it would be wrong to talk to terrorists such as Hizbullah and Hamas. He also showed Carter an “outpost” that was visible from his window – a neighborhood in the nearby community of Elazar.
According to Goldstein, Carter told him that he would like to see more world leaders visiting the Yesha communities and hearing what the residents have to say.
“The most important element in my life in the last 30 years has been bringing peace to Israel,” Carter said in the meeting, “but at the same time we need to bring peace to the Palestinians.”
Carter and Goldstein met for 100 minutes – longer than they had planned.
Among the other people attending the meeting were Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Dean of Yeshivat Har Etzion; Ruthi Gillis, whose husband, Dr. Shmuel Gillis of Karmei Tzur, was murdered by terrorists eight years ago; Sherri Mandell, whose son Kobi was brutally murdered by terrorists when he was 13 years old; Oriya Dasberg, whose sister and brother-in-law were murdered by terrorists; Yehoshua Altman, whose father was killed defending Kfar Etzion in the War of Independence and who returned to Kfar Etzion after its liberation in 1967; and Shmulik Taylor, a young resident of Gush Etzion who is unable to build himself a home because of “natural growth” restrictions.
Visit was Carter's Initiative
Carter was accompanied by four people from his Israeli staff. The meeting was his initiative. He had asked his staff to locate a resident of Yesha whom he could meet with, and they chose Goldstein, who accepted.
Goldstein’s aide said there were no demonstrations against the visit.
Since he brokered the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, Carter has been identified with a strident anti-Israeli line. In 2006 he wrote in Haaretz that "The pre-eminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonisation of Palestine."
In his book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, which came out in the same year, he wrote:
"There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:
"1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and
"2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories."
He has met both Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Hizbullah spiritual leader Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.