Carter presses nuke but­ton

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY FRANCESCA SE­GAL

FOR­MER US pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter has breached diplo­matic pro­to­col by mak­ing spe­cific pub­lic claims about Is­rael’s nu­clear arse­nal.

He be­came the first pres­i­dent to ac­knowl­edge pub­licly Is­rael’s nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity when he ad­dressed an in­vited au­di­ence of jour­nal­ists last week at the Hay-on-Wye lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, on the Welsh borders.

Af­ter de­scrib­ing Is­rael’s block­ade of the Gaza Strip as “one of the great­est hu­man-rights crimes on earth”, he de­clared that Is­rael had more than 150 nu­clear weapons.

This was in re­sponse to a ques­tion about how a fu­ture US pres­i­dent should deal with the Ira­nian nu­clear threat.

List­ing in­ter­na­tional nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity, he said: “The US has more than 12,000 nu­clear weapons, the Soviet Union has about the same, Great Bri­tain and France have sev­eral hun­dred, and Is­rael has 150 or more.”

Al­though the ex­is­tence of Is­raeli nu­clear arms is widely as­sumed, Is­rael has rarely, if ever, re­ferred to them and Amer­i­can of­fi­cials have stuck to that line for years.

This week, Is­rael’s press spokesman, Mark Regev, stead­fastly re­fused to com­ment.

Mr Carter, 83, told the fes­ti­val au­di­ence that the West should be­gin talks with Iran im­me­di­ately, “be­gin­ning at a low level, work­ing up to for­eign min­is­ters and then at a pres­i­den­tial level.

“We need to let them know both the ben­e­fits and the detri­men­tal side of con­tin­u­ing their nu­clear pol­icy.”

He cited Iran’s po­si­tion as a sig­na­tory to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty and em­pha­sised that Is­rael re­mained one of the only non-sig­na­to­ries. “Iran has a right to nu­clear en­riched fuel. Amer­ica has to say ‘we want to be your friend, we want com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trade with you, we want to give you ad­e­quate tech­nol­ogy and fuel to build your peace­ful nu­clear pro­gramme’. I think that’s the best approach.”

Cit­ing the Ira­nian cri­sis dur­ing his own pres­i­dency in which 52 Amer­i­can diplo­mats were taken hostage in the US em­bassy in Tehran, Mr Carter said that he had not re­fused to talk “just be­cause I dis­agreed”.

When asked whether Europe and Amer­ica ought to be ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ha­mas, he said: “Is­rael is do­ing busi­ness with Ha­mas ev­ery day. Ev­ery­one in their right mind knows you can’t have peace with­out talk­ing to Ha­mas.”

Europe, he said, should en­cour­age the for­ma­tion of a unity gov­ern­ment to in­clude Ha­mas and Fatah. He re­ferred to the cur­rent Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment as “a sub­terfuge”.

Cit­ing opin­ion polls that showed in­creas­ing sup­port for Ha­mas, he claimed that Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas was per­ceived as hav­ing “sold out to the Is­raelis and Amer­i­cans”, while Ha­mas was “more fer­vent in pro­tect­ing Pales­tinian rights”.

But as for Ha­mas recog­nis­ing Is­rael, Mr Carter thought this was im­pos­si­ble “un­less Is­rael is will­ing to recog­nise Ha­mas. You’re ask­ing for a rad­i­cal group to give diplo­matic recog­ni­tion to Is­rael, oc­cu­py­ing all of their land, when Is­rael has no in­ten­tion of recog­nis­ing Ha­mas.”

De­scrib­ing the “com­plete” in­flu­ence of the pro-Is­rael lobby groups in Amer­ica, Mr Carter said: “It is po­lit­i­cally un­ac­cept­able for any­one hold­ing US pub­lic of­fice to crit­i­cise the state of Is­rael.”

Mr Carter also com­plained that the Euro­pean Union’s lack of crit­i­cism of Is­rael’s block­ade of Gaza was “em­bar­rass­ing”.

He said the EU should es­tab­lish re­la­tions with Ha­mas if the group agrees to a cease­fire in Gaza.

PHOTO: PA

For­mer US Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter on stage at the Hay Fes­ti­val

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