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Jimmy Carter: 'No Downside' to Palestine Statehood

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Former President Jimmy Carter urges the United States to not veto the Security Council vote for Palestinian statehood anticipated to take place next week.

"If I were president, I'd be very glad to see the Palestinians have a nation recognized by the United Nations," Carter tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "There's no downside to it."

Carter admits that for President Obama, failure to veto "would have some adverse effects perhaps on his political future."

But he thinks it's a price worth paying. His predecessor Harry Truman backed the creation of Israel for moral reasons, against the advice of his inner circle. Carter says that today, Palestinian statehood is "a basic moral commitment" for the U.S.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (left), U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shake hands during the White House signing of the Middle East peace accord in March 1979.
/ The Jimmy Carter Library
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (left), U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shake hands during the White House signing of the Middle East peace accord in March 1979.

In 1977, Carter became the first American president to call for the creation of a Palestinian "homeland." He signed the Camp David Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel, and called for self-governance of the Palestinian people. After his term, he authored several books on the conflict, including the controversially titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

Carter asserts that, in light of the breakdown of U.S.-mediated peace negotiations, "the United States' influence among the Palestinians and inside Israel is at the lowest point it's been in the last 60 years."

The statehood vote is largely symbolic, making Palestine akin to the Vatican. Its greatest value, according to Carter, is to break the impasse in negotiations for a two-state solution. Without a vote, Carter says, "the only alternative is a maintenance of the status quo."

Israel adamantly opposes the U.N. vote and fears it could spawn another round of violence aimed at civilians.

"My position has always been, along with many other people, that any differences be resolved in a nonviolent way," Carter says.

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