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Former President Jimmy Carter maps out a path to peace in the Middle East
By Sharon Anderson

President Jimmy CarterIn his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Jimmy Carter presents a lucid and compelling plan for peace in the Middle East. Utilizing decades of experience analyzing the history of the region, Carter maintains that the time is ripe for a solution to the conflict.

In a telephone interview with Northside San Francisco on Feb. 12, the day after the Israeli national elections, I spoke with President Carter, who’s also a Nobel Prize Laureate.

The Israeli national elections took place yesterday. How will the election results affect the peace process?

It’s not over yet. We don’t know who the prime minister will be. If it’s Benjamin Netanyahu, there might be more conservative elements that are against some of the points needed in establishing an independent Palestinian state. 

So the election results could have negative implications?

Ultimately, no, it doesn’t matter that much who wins the elections because both sides want peace. The leadership in the region agrees that it’s necessary.

Politics will acquiesce and give the people what they want. That’s right.

The current economic situation in the United States has created a lot of domestic turmoil. How can we get the American citizenry behind a problem on foreign soil when they are so distracted by immediate personal concerns? 

As long as the president is interested, that’s the main thing. Obama is committed to promoting peace in the region, and that’s what we’ve been needing to make this happen – American leadership willing to help facilitate that process. A two-state solution will evolve without a problem, and we’re moving toward that solution because it’s the only option. As soon as President Obama has completed his economic stimulus initiative, he’ll be turning his attention to this issue.

Obama has prioritized peace between Israel and Palestine in his presidential campaign, and early on he appointed George Mitchell as the American special envoy to the Middle East. 

George Mitchell is the perfect choice.

Why do you think he’s the perfect choice?

He has superb qualifications and has forged successful peace agreements in the past. He was the Senate majority leader for many years, and he was also the envoy to Northern Ireland where he helped negotiate the Belfast Peace Agreement. Mitchell also has extensive knowledge of the Middle East and understands the facts as they relate to Israel and Palestine. He’s known to be balanced and neutral, and for this he’s received criticism by some Jewish groups, but of course neutrality is exactly what you need in diplomacy. I respect him.

How much freedom do we currently have in diplomatic circles? Has President Obama improved our situation internationally?

Yes, there’s no doubt about it. America’s international status has been the lowest its ever been in my lifetime. Now everything has changed, and American foreign policy has a much greater influence.

This is a positive and hopeful message. Thank you for your time and generosity.

It’s been a pleasure, thank you.

Sharon Anderson is a Los Angeles - based painter and arts writer who appears regularly in the Northside San Francisco. She may be reached through

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