Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) shakes hands with former US President Jimmy Carter, May 2, 2015, in Ramallah. (Abbas Momani Pool Photo via AP) (Abbas Momani Pool Photo via AP)
Jimmy Carter and Mahmoud Abbas

This ex-president remains a prominent anti-Israel voice, but he acknowledged reality in 2009: Jews belong in Judea and Samaria.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Once praised for being the binding power behind the historic 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the aging ex-President Jimmy Carter has since gained notoriety for his anti-Israel rhetoric, including his support for the Palestinian libel that Israel supports “apartheid.”

Israelis and Jews were horrified by his controversial 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” in which he argued that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria were the main barrier to peace.

However, Carter changed his tune a few years later during a 2009 trip to Israel when he accepted an invitation to visit the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.

Jewish pioneers founded several small farming communities there in the early 20th century on legally purchased tracts of land. However, the settlements were overrun in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and the Arab armies massacred almost all of the defenders.

Following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, the survivors of the Gush Etzion communities and the children of those who fell returned to rebuild. Today Gush Etzion is a thriving area, a mere 15 minute drive south of the capital Jerusalem.

Gush Etzion council head Shaul Goldstein, at the time a member of the Yesha Settlers Council, fought off strong opposition by many people who objected to Carter’s visit to his home in the town of Neve Daniel in 2009.

However, Goldstein wanted to engage opponents and invited victims of Palestinian terror and survivors of the 1948 atrocities to tell Carter their stories. After several hours of listening to them and also hearing how much they all supported peace, Carter emerged and talked to the press to give what can only be described as a stunning endorsement of the settlements.

“This particular settlement area [Gush Etzion] is not one that I envision ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory,” Carter said.

In total rejection of previous calls for a complete return to the 1948 armistice lines, Carter endorsed Israeli sovereignty over Gush Etzion.

“This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever,” he said, at the same time setting a precedent for the many other settlement areas that are close to “the 1967 line.”

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