Commentary Magazine


Contentions

An Op-Ed Disguised as a Book Review

In the New York Times Book Review, Gershom Gorenberg reviews Jimmy Carter’s “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land” — and comes to a conclusion that is contradicted within the review itself.

Carter’s new volume is “a short op-ed article disguised as a book,” which could have “easily been put in 900 words.”  It “lacks a couple of critical elements” (such as perspective), is “wrong on the details” (such as how Sadat decided to go to Jerusalem), exhibits a “strange need” to “name-drop” (about his meetings), and reads as if it had been “spoken into a recorder for a couple of weeks.”

Substantively, the book “makes no new, creative proposal.”  Carter advocates two states on the 1967 borders (with minor territorial exchanges) and bringing Syria and Hamas into the process.  But Gorenberg notes that Carter’s one foreign policy success — the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty — resulted from precisely the opposite approach:  Sadat’s decision to make “an end run around Carter’s stubborn intent to reconvene the Geneva peace conference.”

The book, in other words, is unoriginal, inaccurate, poorly written, and proposes precisely what didn’t work before.  So what is Gorenberg’s conclusion?  He urges Obama, despite the deficiencies of the book, to “take seriously Carter’s advice to pursue peace”:

The Gaza crisis is a reminder, as if another were needed, that ignoring this conflict is equivalent to waiting for it to explode again, with shock waves felt across the entire region. While a peace initiative may look risky, it might actually be the most prudent course the new administration could pursue.

What?  For the last 15 years – from the handshake on the White House lawn to Condoleezza Rice’s two-year effort to create a Palestinian state – no conflict has been less ignored than this one.  Nor, despite the attention, has any conflict exploded more often – usually after a formal Israeli two-state proposal, or a withdrawal from strategic land so Lebanese or Gazans could live “side by side in peace and security.”

Carter’s own success required an Egyptian leader who expelled the Soviets, jettisoned the comprehensive U.S. peace plan, and went to Israel to convince it of his sincerity.  The time for the new peace initiative that Carter/Gorenberg propose will come right after the Syrian president evicts Hamas from Damascus and travels to Jerusalem to address the Knesset.


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