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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

President Carter answers more of your questions

Published: February 2, 2007
Section: News

Courtesy of The Faculty-Student Carter Question website:

1) Sergio Reyes '98, Alumni

Brandeis has always prided itself on the level of social responsibility inherent in its mission, as embodied by students, faculty, and alumni. What role do you believe private universities such as Brandeis possess in being truly forward thinking and socially progressive both within the US and abroad? In what realms can private universities do more?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: Private universities have a special role to play, even compared to state-supported institutions, in that they are not constrained by political considerations involving state legislators, governors, and governing boards comprising political appointees. Also, there is a much broader range of priorities, key issues, and other defining characteristics among the several thousand private colleges, than among the public institutions.

One of the most neglected broad realms of social responsibility is the study of the poorest Less Developed Nations and the causes of their preventable economic, social, and physical suffering. The greatest challenge of this new millennium is the growing chasm between the rich and poor people on earth. Brandeis could choose one such small nation (or one people), get to know them with visits from faculty and students, and feed back into the classrooms this unique insight into another aspect of life on earth. For instance, more than half the people of Liberia live on less than 50 cents/day.

2) Joseph Cunningham, Professor of Psychology

What specific efforts do you believe contributed most to the ongoing de-escalation of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and how might the progress there inform efforts to address the Palestinian impasse?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: One key to the apparent success in Ireland has been the persistent effort from London and Washington, sustained over many years and many disappointments. Another is the willingness of mediators to deal directly with major parties to the dispute even with groups branded as terrorists. Both these elements are missing in the Middle East dispute. There are, of course, other differences.

3) Gabriela Lupatkin, Senior in Psychology

Carter equates the situation in Israel to South African Apartheid. How does he explain the fact the Israel actually takes care of many of the Palestinians needs, such as medical care with Magen David Adoma and Save a Childs heart water artilary and education? Over the past decade Israel has helped create 11 Palestinian Universities and has one of the best affirmative action programs in the world. This seems to be oppose his claims. How does he reconcile these differences?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: There are certainly many notable examples of Israeli benevolence toward Palestinians, which I have observed as a long-time visitor within Israel. Also, of course, many private groups (and the S. African government) provided health care, education, and other services to black citizens. I look forward to the report of a possible Brandeis exploratory mission among the Palestinians, where the overall Israeli-Palestinian relationship can be seen in a more balanced way.

4) Jeremy Aaron Gottlieb, First Year, Major Undeclared

If Anwar Sadat was still alive today, how do you feel his presence would influence the current situation in the Middle East? As a follow-up…Obviously he is not with us today, but is there something in his legacy that you feel would help expedite a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: President Sadat was a unique and powerful leader, admired and trusted in the Western world, willing to face without flinching the condemnation of many other Arab leaders, including being ostracized, economic boycotts, and the hatred of a small group of radicals in his own country (who assassinated him). The part of his legacy that is still extant, though not adequately used, is the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the unaltered and respected treaty of 1979, which is living proof that all sides can have permanent benefits from a comprehensive peace agreement. The basic premises (Peace for Israel and access to the Suez Canal, Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and freedom, justice, and peace for the Palestinians) are still there to be utilized.

5) Jacob Merlin, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

At the start of the 20th century, leaders of the American Jewish community were not enthusiastic or were even opposed to the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East. It was largely the efforts of one man that changed this mentality. As chair of the American Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, Louis Brandeis transformed America into a center of the Zionist movement. President Carter, if Justice Louis Brandeis were in this room today what would you say to him?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: I have studied the contributions of Justice Brandeis for many years, in the judicial realm and especially as they related to shaping the history of Israel. His death in 1941 prevented his seeing a Jewish nation encompassing a major portion of Judea and Samaria, and with an opportunity to live in harmony and peace with all its neighbors. I would make the same presentation to him as I made to the students and faculty on January 23rd, and would weigh heavily his response, which I believe would be mostly in agreement especially concerning a commitment to justice and righteousness.

6) Charlie Gandelman, Sophomore in Islamic Middle Eastern Studies

President Carter, you are a big proponent of Israel returning to the 1967 borders as a means for peace. However before 67, no Arab state was willing to make peace with Israel, let alone recognize her as a state. Furthermore Israel did not have control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, or the Golan. Even when Israel had no land under contention did the Arab states desire to destroy the Jewish state. With that precedent set, how would returning to the 67 borders help the conflict?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: All 23 Arab nations have declared their willingness to recognize Israels right to live in peace within its internationally recognized borders. Also, recent opinion polls indicate that 81% of Palestinians are willing to accept a two-state solution, divided by the 1967 borders. Obviously, there are both Israelis and Palestinians (a relatively small minority) who object to any such compromise, and other issues to be resolved, so concerted peace talks will be necessary to reach an agreement.

7) Paul Miller, Lecturer in the Biology Department

Israel is a relatively wealthy country with a per capita GDP between three and six times the size of of its neighbors. Yet both during your presidency, and today, US foreign aid to Israel dwarfs that to any other country in the world. Do you think this is, or ever was a justified and fair use of American taxpayers money?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: U.S. aid (about $10 million per day) to Israel from American taxpayers has been justified in the past, including when I became president and Egypt led a threatening military force of Arab enemies. I believe that our limited foreign aid could better be spent nowadays in poverty stricken countries where preventable suffering persists. At the same time, the U.S. should be ready to ensure that Israel is always able to defend itself.

8) Noah Czarny, Junior in History

The recently released Iraq Study Group Report made the point that the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of the more controversial recommendations was its suggestion that Israel return the Golan Heights to Syria. What are your thoughts on this proposal and how feasible do you think it is?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: I agree with the Hamilton-Baker report. Through good faith negotiations between Israel and Syria, Israel could withdraw from the Golan Heights. An international peacekeeping force similar to what I arranged for the Sinai region could guarantee that a potential Syrian threat would be prevented.

9) David Kuperstein, Junior in Economics & Near Eastern & Judaic Studies

Ambassador Dennis Ross, who taught at Brandeis last spring, notes that Put simply, the Clinton parameters would have produced an independent Palestinian state with 100 percent of Gaza roughly 97 percent of the West Bank and an elevated train or highway to connect them. Your book seems to take issue with this. Based on what information do you claim that in response to the peace efforts led by President Clinton, no Palestinian leader could accept such terms and survive?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: As a matter of fact, a high level official in Washington under President Clinton announced that both Israel under Barak and the Palestinians under Arafat had approved the Clinton proposals with reservations. The Israeli reservations were voluminous and enumerated in a 22-page document. The Palestinian reservations were also quite extensive, and have been described in detail to me by their chief negotiators at the time. There was never any specific geographical map presented by President Clinton, and the Palestinians were deeply concerned about the exact boundary line and probably assumed the worst, as presented in one of the maps in my book. Another extremely difficult issue for them was the premise that they would have to renounce the key U.N. resolutions on which they always have predicated their legal claims and hopes: 194, 242, 338, et al. Building on President Clintons good work, the Geneva Accords were revealed three years later at a conference that I keynoted, and provided at least one reasonable set of proposals that were quite specific.

10) Alex Levine, Junior in Economics

A three part question: In the first several months of your presidency you met with leaders from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Today, in your opinion, which regional powers are the most influential in the current situation in Israel? In what form do they assert their power? And has the war in Iraq either diminished or enhanced this power?

PRESIDENT CARTER'S ANSWER: In a positive sense, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are most important, while Iran has the most negative impact. It is at least possible that Syria could play a positive role if asked to do so. Lebanon is too preoccupied with its own affairs to help in the adjacent dispute. Unfortunately, all the positive powers are excessively dormant now, perhaps waiting for a strong and specific request from Washington to join in a peace effort. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are trying to stabilize the Palestinian community with quiet diplomacy. There is little doubt that Iran is stimulating dissension and violence among the more militant Arab groups. The war in Iraq has preoccupied the United States, exacerbated Arab animosity toward Israel and America (even within the positive nations), and greatly increased the regional influence of Iran.