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Carter's new book offers advice to the new administration

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 11, 2009 - With his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, former President Jimmy Carter passes along his optimism and years of wisdom through his devotion to peace in the Middle East to the new administration.

"I think that we're blessed to have a president who has put peace in the Middle East at the top of his agenda the first day he was in office and not wait until the last day," Carter told the press during a signing at Left Bank Books on 10th and Locust Street Tuesday afternoon.

The former head of state was all smiles as he signed copies of his book and sung the praises of President Barack Obama's selection of George Mitchell as the U.S. envoy to the conflicted region, noting that his past successes are an indication of his ability to negotiate with foreign leaders.

Mitchell, Carter indicated, would hold a "balanced point of view between the Israelis and their neighbors."

Carter himself faced accusations of being unbalanced in favor of the Palestinians in his 2006 work, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. In a recent press release from Simon & Schuster, he explained that he learned a great deal from the reaction to his previous book.

"I should have realized that the previous use of the word apartheid during the spirited debates in Israel had already aroused the sensitivity of many Israeli supporters in America about Israel's being equated with the racist regime in South Africa," he said.

Carter's latest work illustrates his extensive history and persistence in finding a solution to the fighting over the Middle Eastern land that many consider holy. It offers suggestions to the new president to continue on the road to backing a sustainable peace treaty in Gaza. He also offers hope for the future of peace through going back over his breakthrough work with leaders who could not get along personally (Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat) at Camp David more 30 years ago.

"[Begin] accommodated the will of his people and a proposal that I made to him and Sadat, and he signed the peace agreement," Carter explained at the signing. "That was almost exactly 30 years ago, and not a word of it has ever been violated."

Because both sides of the conflict, Carter says, are now committed to the peace process, a positive outcome can eventually be achieved. He believes that the new president and his envoy will help to move the process forward, using Obama's power as a grassroots community organizer.

"Whenever he settles on the best format that he can imagine, helped by George Mitchell and others in the region, and then says to the Israelis and to the Palestinians: 'This is what I think is the best solution for you. It's one that the United States government will back, and I can guarantee you that the vast majority of the American people, who supported me in the campaign will also support this peace initiative,' I think that will have a major impact on both sides."

Solange Deschatres is a freelance writer.