Ideas: Presidential Provocation

President Carter has a new book out, his 23rd since leaving office and his most controversial. "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" has drawn fire for its use of the word "apartheid," and a former associate, Kenneth Stein, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Emory University, is raising questions about the book's accuracy. (Disclosure: NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey was one of the people asked to comment on an early draft of the book.) President Carter spoke to Eleanor Clift:

Well, it was. But one of the purposes of the book was to provoke discussion, which is very rarely heard in this country, and to open up some possibility that we could rejuvenate or restart the peace talks in Israel that have been absent for six years.

Not really, because I knew that's an accurate description of what's going on in Palestine. I would say that the plight of the Palestinians now--the confiscation of their land, that they're being suppressed completely against voicing their disapproval of what's happening, the building of the wall that intrudes deep within their territory, the complete separation of Israelis from the Palestinians--all of those things in many ways are worse than some of the aspects of apartheid in South Africa. No one can go there and visit the different cities in Palestine without agreeing with what I have said.

You and I both know the powerful influence of AIPAC, which is not designed to promote peace. I'm not criticizing them, they have a perfect right to lobby, but their purpose in life is to protect and defend the policies of the Israeli government and to make sure those policies are approved in the United States and in our Congress--and they're very effective at it.

Thirteen years ago! He hasn't been associated with the Carter Center for 13 years.

He was a third party in some of the meetings, I can't deny that. And a lot of those meetings took place when I was still president and an exact transcription was kept and it's in the official files. So the reports that I gave in the book are completely accurate.

The only source that I took anything from that I know about was my own book, which I wrote earlier--it's called "The Blood of Abraham" ... Somebody told me this morning [Stein] was complaining about the maps in the book. Well, the maps are derived from an atlas that was published in 2004 in Jerusalem and it was basically produced under the aegis of officials in Sweden. And the Swedish former prime minister is the one who told me this was the best atlas available about the Middle East.

Exactly what I did--that the peace talks recommence.