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Carter Predicts a Full-Scale Mideast Peace Treaty Within a Year : Diplomacy: The former President, who engineered the Israeli-Egyptian truce, feels vindicated. He says Jordan is likely to reveal its intentions today.

September 14, 1993|JACK NELSON | TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

WASHINGTON — A jubilant Jimmy Carter, once reviled by Jews as an Arab partisan in Middle East peace negotiations, predicted Monday that the historic Israeli-Palestinian accord signed earlier in the day at a White House ceremony will be followed within a year by a full-scale peace treaty.

The former President, who--along with former President George Bush--was an honored guest at the White House, said in an interview that he expects Israel to sign peace agreements first with Jordan and subsequently with Syria and then Lebanon.

For Carter, Monday's ceremonies had a special sweetness because they amounted to a rare moment of public vindication.

It was 15 years ago this month that Carter, through determined diplomacy, brought about the Camp David Accords that resulted in the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty--a critical first step in the long process that led to Monday's astonishing agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In 1979, when Carter was struggling to bring Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat together, many Jews accused him of being partial to Egypt.

At that time, said Carter, the term "evenhanded" in Arab-Israeli negotiations was used as "an epithet among Jewish leaders." But only because of his willingness to listen to both sides, he said, was he able to persuade Sadat and Begin to sign the accord.

Subsequent events have proven that an evenhanded approach was the proper one and have vindicated him and improved his relations with both the Israelis and American Jews, he said.

Carter smiled broadly as a crowd of 3,000 at the White House ceremony, including many Jewish and Arab representatives, gave him a sustained ovation. Monday's visit to the White House, in the company of his wife, Rosalynn, was his first since Ronald Reagan was inaugurated to succeed him in January, 1981. At President Clinton's invitation, the Carters spent Monday night in the White House.

Bush, the only other former President at the ceremony, drew warm applause from the crowd and praise from Carter and Clinton for his efforts in bringing about the 1991 Madrid peace conference.

For the mostly unsmiling Bush, the event was as bittersweet as it was utterly sweet for Carter. The reception for Carter was far more enthusiastic. And Clinton, who defeated Bush in a hard-fought campaign and had relatively little involvement in the peace process, presided over the heavily televised event and stands to benefit politically from it.

In a lengthy interview after Monday's ceremony, Carter, who has remained in contact with Israeli and Arab leaders, said that Jordan is likely to announce its peace intentions today, a timetable confirmed by U.S. officials. They said representatives of the Israeli and Jordanian governments will meet at the State Department to initial an "Agenda for Peace" that will serve as a framework for a peace treaty.

Although President Hafez Assad of Syria has not commented publicly on the Israeli-Palestinian accord, Carter said that Assad "won't want to be left out" or "known as the only Arab leader who doesn't want peace."

Carter, who said he has been in "intense discussions" with the Syrian leader, described Assad as "fairly moderate and constructive about what should be done about the Golan Heights," which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War. He said that Syria is ready to withdraw its troops "a greater distance" from that region than Israel will propose to withdraw its troops.

The major issue in the negotiations between Israel and Syria is whether Israel will withdraw its troops from the heights. Israel has indicated that it might be willing to return the territory to Syria, but only if Syria will discuss full peace.

Carter, who has monitored elections in six countries since leaving office in 1981, told reporters that he and his Carter Center in Atlanta probably will monitor elections for Palestinian leaders when they take place in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The center, he said, "is ready to play a role . . . to make sure proper elections are held."

Since 1989, Carter has monitored elections in Panama, Haiti, Zambia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Paraguay.

In the interview, Carter reflected on the long, difficult road remaining for peace in the Middle East but said he is optimistic that it will come soon "because the people on both sides want it."

Recalling the tedious 13 days of negotiations in September, 1978, that resulted in the Camp David Accords, Carter praised the courage of both Sadat and Begin but said that Begin was the more courageous because in signing the agreement, "he had to reverse the very things he said he would never do."

"He took a vow that 'May my right hand fall off if I ever dismantle a settlement,' " Carter said, but in essence agreed, with the approval of Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, to dismantle an Israeli settlement in the Sinai, which was returned to Egypt under the accords.

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