Carter: Obama has given up on Middle East peace

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Opinion Zone,Bruce McQuain

Former President Jimmy Carter is not at all impressed with Barack Obama's efforts toward Middle East peace.  Speaking tuesday at the LBJ library's annual Harry Middleton Lectureship series, Carter said that in terms of the peace process in the Middle East, "nothing is going on."

Answering a question about Egypt, the former president praised President Obama's handling of the situation there saying he's "done quite well" and that Obama has handled it "about the same way I'd have handled it if I'd been in office."

However, on the broader question of the Middle East peace process, Carter was much less complimentary saying, "President Obama has basically given up on peace in the Middle East."

Pointing out that Obama had started out well, Carter blasted Obama by claiming that he'd now become "more accommodating to Netanyahu and Israel than George W. Bush was."  Trying to dampen his critique of the Obama administration, Carter said he really wasn't there to criticize, but he'd been asked a question and that was the answer.  "I don't have any feeling of success for what President Obama had done in the Middle East", Carter concluded.

The session was an hour long question and answer period on a wide range of topics including Carter's run for the presidency, his term in office and his work after he left office.  In it Carter's most pointed remarks came during the discussion of the Middle East peace process. 

Often cited as someone who cozies up to dictators, Carter admitted to having "lunch or dinner" each time he went to Egypt with Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, because he knew "more about the Middle East than anyone", and he described Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as a "young, fairly progressive president" who had "inherited" the presidency from his father.

Carter's criticism comes amid reports this week that the US plans on breaking long precedence at the UN and will support a UN Security Council statement reaffirming that body's position that it "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity."  It is believed the US has chosen that route to avoid vetoing a stronger Palestinian statement calling the settlements "illegal."


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