Friday, January 26, 2007

Israel: A Stiff Necked Country

Israel: A Stiff Necked Country

That's not my opinion, by the way; rather, its my translation of Jimmy's belief that Israel was "intransigent."

I guess he believed he had the God's eye view, that he shared God's perspective and God's judgement on Israel so closely.
Carter's distrust of the U.S. Jewish community and other supporters of Israel runs deep. According to former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Carter's feelings on Israel were always ambivalent. On the one hand, he felt Israel was being intransigent; on the other, he genuinely had an attachment to the country as the ‘land of the Bible.'"

This quote is taken from Ken Stein's review of Jimmy Carter's book; Stein, you will recall, was the first to resign from the Carter center, after the recent publication of Carter's infamous book. Leading to the unavoidable conclusion that it is not a good idea to piss off publicly someone who worked with you over the years so closely that he understands the nature of your thought mechanisms. And feels betrayed enough by you to reveal the kind of mind you have and your intellectual shortcomings in public.

And this Ken Stein does, in a judicious and rational way, peeling off the mask on Carter's methodology and biases.

As we collaborated on The Blood of Abraham,[2] Carter's first book about the Middle East, I witnessed Carter's passion, determination, and stubbornness. He was capable of absorbing vast amounts of information, and he had an extraordinary capacity to recall detailed points and concepts almost verbatim months after reading them.

Carter's preferred method in writing the book was to lay a brief and somewhat selective historical foundation for each chapter and emphasize the contemporary. I sought to anchor each chapter more deeply in history and political culture. He had little patience for precedent or laborious recapitulation of history. Too often it interfered with his desire to find action-oriented solutions, which befit his training as an engineer. For Carter, history and ideology bestowed unwanted moorings and unnecessary rigidities; they shackled the pragmatism and flexibility of the would-be negotiator.

So, too, Stein exposes the kind of malicious hatred Carter held for Menachim Begin, to the extent that he preferred knowingly to print inaccuracies in past books after him - even when those inaccuracies have been pointed out:
While Carter lauds Begin for his intelligence, a point he has repeatedly made when speaking to my students, [ed. adds: well of course - he is a "clever Jew"] his animus toward the late Israeli leader is limitless. This became evident when we were writing The Blood of Abraham, and Carter insisted on asserting that Begin "wanted to expand Israeli borders to both sides of the Jordan River." In fact, this is anachronistic. True, this had been Begin's view prior to Israel's independence in 1948, but it was not, as Carter implied, Begin's position after his twenty-nine years in the Knesset (parliament) or during his premiership. During chapter editing, I brought the error to Carter's attention. He declined to correct it.

During the difficult negotiations between Egypt and Israel, Carter and his advisers tried to get Sadat to engage in a collusive scheme: They would encourage Sadat to make "deliberately exaggerated" demands. The White House would then intervene to "compel" Cairo to scale back its demands in exchange for Israeli concessions. Then-national security advisor Brzezinski explained that Washington would "apply maximum leverage on Israel to accommodate," by keeping the West Bank's political future on the table for future negotiations. That Carter risked possible Israeli-Egyptian peace in an effort to extract greater concessions from Begin underscores the tension in their relationship.

It's fascinating to find out as well, the effect these political manipulations had on Begin, once he learned of them. He was so angry that he refused to see Carter various times when Carter was in Israel, blaming it on illness.
On our 1987 trip to Israel, Begin refused to see Carter, citing health reasons, but Begin's personal secretary told me it was because of the way Carter had treated Begin.

It is not surprising, moreover, to have confirmed for us by Ken Stein that Carter blames his loss in 1981 on Begin and not on his own huge failures as President.

What's that they say in Christianity again?

Do not criticize the speck in your neighbor's eye, before you remove the log from you own.

Carter, however, would prefer to blame the "Jews" for being a stiff necked people. Not so much the Gd's eye view when it comes to seeing himself, is it.

But no matter, for the man still possesses missionary zeal. And a belief in his own godlike vision:
Carter has come to scorn those who disagree with him. On his recent book tour promoting Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, whenever an interviewer disagreed with a premise or challenged Carter's views, he would respond, "It is obvious you did not read my book." This is Carter's way of chiding the interviewer for not accepting his wisdom. When Carter says, "Everything in the book is accurate; it is correct," he seeks acknowledgment that he possesses a privileged understanding of the conflict's fundamental truths and should, therefore, be accepted as someone qualified to apportion blame.

Another example of this godlike vision is here:
Carter is convinced that he himself was the essential ingredient to enable the Egyptian-Israeli peace. However, Carter does not understand how fortunate he was to have in Begin and Sadat two leaders who needed agreement. Each possessed vision and courage and faced a common adversary in the Soviet Union. This reality welded them into uncomfortable but necessary interaction. Had Carter continued his diplomacy into a second term, he would not have found Israeli and Palestinian leaders possessing any degree of urgency for a solution. There is no evidence that the Arafat of the early 1980s was more willing to compromise or abandon terror than the Arafat faced by Clinton. Nonetheless, Carter believes his negotiating skills could bear fruit where Clinton failed. His conviction is so great that he need not read Ross's account.

This article is a must-read demythologization and deconstruction of the ex-President. Please read the entire thing, available here.

Hat tip, Michael Rubin in the Corner. And scroll the Corner for more commentary on it.

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