By Elliott Abrams
Tuesday, September 8, 2009 6:04 PM
In his response to my Sept. 8 op-ed, Jimmy Carter continues his practice of assuming that his travelogues constitute evidence and dismissing data that contradict his claims. This will persuade few people. I did not suggest that life was wonderful in the West Bank, only that it is not getting worse. Carter claimed life is deteriorating there, but neither economic nor poll data -- nor impressionistic evidence I have seen, including travelogues from recent visitors who report far easier travel in the West Bank -- sustain his claim.
The question is not whether Palestinians would prefer to see Israeli soldiers leave; no doubt they would, and no doubt those soldiers would rather be at home. But Carter overlooks the fact that after Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, it did not quickly institute a restricted road network or travel restrictions on Palestinians, nor did it build its security fence. Those came decades later, in the face of vicious acts of terrorism.
What puts Carter's goal of a two-state solution at risk is not settlements, but terrorism. It is terrorism that prevents Israel from leaving the West Bank entirely in Palestinian hands today, for Israelis learned a lesson after leaving Gaza and South Lebanon. A negotiated settlement is still possible, and it does not require a settlement freeze; instead it requires that Palestinian terrorists stop trying to kill Israelis, or that a Palestinian government be in place that is ready, willing, and able to prevent them from succeeding.
The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.