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Spreading conflict

"Spreading conflict" Continued...

Issue: "Faith-based campaigning," Jan. 27, 2007

Dershowitz claims Carter is aware of the bias in his book and "has been bought and paid for by Arab money." The Carter Center, which has received more than $10 million directly from the king of Saudi Arabia, Dershowitz said, "has never done a study on human rights abuses or apartheid in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has roads that are marked for Muslims only."

Saudi Arabia's King Fahd was a longtime contributor to the center before his death in 2005, donating $7.6 million in 1993 alone. Critics also blasted Carter for accepting money and an award from the Zayed Center, an Abu Dhabi-based think-tank accused of anti-Semitic activities.

Former Mideast envoy Dennis Ross, who worked for presidents Carter, Bush Sr., and Clinton, also has joined Carter's critics, charging that Carter used maps Ross created and twisted their meaning. "To my mind, Mr. Carter's presentation badly misrepresents the Middle East proposals advanced by President Bill Clinton in 2000, and in so doing undermines, in a small but important way, efforts to bring peace to the region," Ross said in a Jan. 9 New York Times editorial.

Carter claims the ultimate purpose of his book is to bring new information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stir a debate and discussion in order to renew stalled peace talks.

Carter Center resignations and renewed controversy escalated just as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made her way across the Middle East to promote President Bush's new initiatives in Iraq. She was also exploring ways to launch peace talks in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Jordan's King Abdullah told Rice that the United States needs to devote as much energy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as to the conflict in Iraq, pushing for a two-state solution through an Israeli withdrawal from all territory occupied in 1967 in exchange for full recognition of Israel by Arab countries.

Rice announced that she will bring Palestinian and Israeli leaders together for a summit in the coming weeks, and some speculate that talks may focus on final-status agreements for Palestinian statehood rather than the conditional and step-by-step approach of the largely discarded road map for peace.

The process will not be easy for either leader: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is engaged in a power-struggle with Hamas, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is embroiled in a political scandal and still recovering from last summer's politically scarring war in Lebanon. On Jan. 17, his military chief, Dan Halutz, resigned over that war.

High stakes help explain why former Carter allies and fellow Democrats are challenging an ex-president with unusual force and bluntness. In the Middle East especially, words count.

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