By Michael Jacobs | firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy Carter is getting the Barack Obama treatment from the Israeli government.
Carter reportedly is planning to turn up in Israel around the end of April to do what the former president does — make a show of going to Gaza and the West Bank, meet with the “democratically elected” Hamas leadership, look for every opportunity to criticize Israel and declare that the only obstacle to peace in the entire Middle East is Israel’s refusal to abandon every inch of land captured since 1949 — and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin are refusing to meet with him.
It’s tempting to see the decision as payback for Obama’s refusal to see Netanyahu when he visited Washington in March. But I’d like to think Israel would just say no to Carter even amid the warmest of relations with the United States.
I long ago tired of detailing all the ways Carter is wrong about Israel, but I do admire his determination to prove that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Since being the wrong man in the right place in 1978 for the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, he has claimed that blissful peace in our time was just a few more Israeli land withdrawals away, and nothing from Tehran to Tripoli the past four decades has changed his mind.
He offered the familiar formula for peace in January on “The Daily Show”: Israel just gives back the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, the Palestinians promise to play nice, and we all live happily ever after.
It’s the favorite tune of what could be called the Simple School of Middle East Diplomacy. The idea is that Israel is tricking the world into thinking the Israeli-Palestinian (and Israeli-Arab and Jewish-Muslim) conflict is complicated with layers of nuance and difficult disputes over borders and religious rights and natural resources and trade and missiles and history and birthrates and birthrights and who took what from whom when, but it’s really simple: Israel just gives back what it took/conquered/stole/colonized.
That view contains a world of anti-Semitic undertones (those sneaky shyster Jews), ignores what Palestinians say (“the occupation” started with the War of Independence, not the Six-Day War, and “justice for Palestine” means the end of Zionism, the “simple solution” so many of Israel’s foes still have in mind) and involves an workable diplomatic imbalance (Israel takes concrete actions while the Palestinians offer words of assurance; even the fatally flawed Iranian nuclear framework requires Iran to do things).
Let’s just say Carter has nothing new to offer the Middle East.
The emptiness of his ideas for peace and his relentless drumbeat of anti-Israel statements provide all the justification Israeli leaders need to refuse the protocol of meeting with an ex-president in the best of times. But the timing of Carter’s visit is horrible, and he knows it.
Netanyahu still hasn’t formed a ruling coalition. Carter plans to arrive a week or so before the deadline to do so. Why should the prime minister take an hour or two out of the government-building process to let a man who hasn’t held elected office in 34 years chastise him and gloat to the media about it?
It seems Carter will never go away, but his only power is that of a parasite. He feeds on the attention he gets and the irritation he causes. Respond to him, meet with him, treat him as if he’s important, and he grows in annoyance. Ignore him and he’s harmless.
Good choice, Israel.