Jimmy Carter, stick to your guns

Why do political leaders (past or present) need the approval of the Zionist lobby? To be classed as sufficiently “Zionist”, “pro-Israel” and “friendly to Jews”? Or to attract the big bucks when running in elections?

A prominent Jewish leader criticized former President Jimmy Carter on Monday, blasting Carter for saying in a speech this month that the U.S. government has “yielded excessively” to Israel.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that Carter’s comments during a recent conference on U.S.-Arab relations suggest that he was not sincere in a 2009 apology to the Jewish community.

Carter said in a statement Monday that he has “never stigmatized” Israel during his presidency or after leaving the White House. He has long said bringing peace to the Middle East has been his top priority in the 30 years since his defeat to Ronald Reagan.

Carter has had an often-tense relationship with the Jewish community.

Although he brokered the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty during his presidency, Carter outraged many Jews with his 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” Critics contend he unfairly compared Israeli treatment of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza to the legalized racial oppression that once existed in South Africa.

In December, Carter sent an open letter to the Jewish community to offer an Al Het – a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Though the actual Yom Kippur holiday was in September, Carter wrote that it was appropriate to apologize at any time of the year for acts that hurt others and said “I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.”

Foxman said he was encouraged by the gesture. But he said Monday that the comments Carter made at the March 18 conference, in which he encouraged President Barack Obama to take a more “balanced” position in its relations with Israel, “leave little doubt of the insincerity of his apology.”

“Nothing has changed. None of his views have been recalibrated,” said Foxman, who said he spoke with the Georgia Democrat by telephone last week about his comments. “He hasn’t really changed his views and I don’t understand what this Al Het letter was all about.”

At the conference, held in Atlanta, Carter said the U.S. has “yielded excessively to the circumstances in the Holy Land as Israel has confiscated several lands within Palestine” and urged President Barack Obama to push a two-state solution that establishes an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.

Carter, in the statement released Monday, said he has long disagreed both privately and publicly with the policies of Israeli leaders concerning “the mistreatment of Palestinians and the confiscation of their land.”

He added: “Many other leaders and citizens of Israel and the United States have done the same – in the interests of peace.”