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If you like Jimmy Carter's story, you might also like:
Norman Borlaug,
George H.W. Bush,
Johnnetta Cole,
Millard Fuller,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Frank M. Johnson,
Shimon Peres,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Robert S. Strauss
and Andrew Young

Jimmy Carter's recommended reading: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Jimmy Carter also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Jimmy Carter in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
What is a Leader
Global Conflicts

Related Links:
Jimmy Carter Library
The White House

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Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
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Jimmy Carter Interview (page: 3 / 5)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  Jimmy Carter

One of your greatest accomplishments was the Camp David Accord and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. It has become the model for peace settlements between Israel and its other Arab neighbors. What were the conditions that made Camp David possible, and do you see the same conditions present now (1991) that would make possible a broader peace in the Middle East?

Jimmy Carter: Let me answer that last question first. I don't see the conditions now that were there then.

We had two bold and courageous political leaders then. Particularly Anwar Sadat, combined with a very receptive leader in Menachem Begin, who was willing to make decisions very difficult for him within his own constituency in Israel. And I had done my homework. I had met with the Israeli leaders and the Egyptian leaders, and the Jordanian and Lebanese, and Syrian leaders. And so we were able to provide some means by which these two bold and courageous political leaders could come together. They were incompatible. We were at Camp David 13 days. They never saw each other the last ten days. Every time they got in the same room, we went backwards instead of forwards. So Begin and Sadat stayed separate. And I would go to one and then go to the other one, back and forth. And eventually, we came out with the Camp David Accord, which people forget is called "a framework for peace." It's a set of principles on which peace can be predicated in the future, and that framework is still absolutely applicable to any negotiations in the Middle East now. The people that rejected it then -- the Jordanians, the Palestinians and the Syrians -- are now willing to negotiate on the basis of Camp David. We used the Camp David principles six months later to conclude the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Jimmy Carter Interview Photo
Now we have a much more entrenched problem. Although the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, voted overwhelmingly for the Camp David Accords -- 85 percent voted for it, 15 percent against it -- those 15 percent are the ones that are now in charge of the Israeli government. Although they now profess to be in favor of the Camp David Accords -- the withdrawal from occupied territories, the granting to Palestinians of full autonomy, which Prime Minister Begin agreed to do and that the Knesset endorsed -- these are the basic principles now on which the Israeli leaders will not agree. But it would be a mistake to give up, because there is a bottom line factor that gives me some hope: the people want peace.

The Israeli people want peace. The Palestinian people want peace. The Jordanians do, God knows. The Lebanese people want peace. It's the political leaders who are the obstacles, because they are too inflexible, and they are looking at their own sometimes very narrow political constituency to give them restraints which they can't break. Someday though, there will be leaders there, like Sadat and Begin then, who will truly represent the desire of their people for peace, and then we'll have success.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

One of the other successes that you were involved in is also one of the most controversial, the Panama Canal Treaty. There was a knock-down, drag-out fight in the Senate, but you were successful. The treaty means that the Canal will eventually be turned over to the Panamanians. A lot has happened since that treaty, but none of it has affected the status of the Canal, even though many critics at the time talked about the kinds of things that have happened as being the worst possible scenario.

Jimmy Carter: What people forget is that the original treaty with Panama was written and signed without any Panamanian ever seeing it. It was never fair to the Panamanians, and most people recognize that. President Johnson gave his word of honor to the Panamanians, "We will have a new treaty." So did President Nixon and President Ford. But it was only when I got into office that I was foolish enough to push it to a conclusion. The treaty is very fair to our country and to the Panamanians. It gives us first priority in using the Canal. It gives us the right to defend the Canal against external threats, not only in this century but even in the next century. And it forms a sharing partnership in operating the Canal. When I was there during the Panamanian elections, which we helped to conduct, I visited the Canal and the American leaders there, and they told me that the Canal was in better shape than it had been in many, many years. Because the Panamanians, knowing that they now have a share in the future of the Canal, were much more enthusiastic in upkeep and maintenance and learning how to be the leaders in ways that they hadn't been before. This was the worst political battle I ever got into. It was more difficult to get the Panama Canal Treaties ratified by two-thirds of the Senate of the United States than it was for me to get elected President in the first place. It was a very deep and bitter political battle, and many people still haven't gotten over it. I never go through a week of my life now that I don't get letters from people condemning the Panama Canal Treaties. Still, and this is I don't know how many years later. 1978? Thirteen years later. But it was a good thing to do.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Jimmy Carter Interview Photo
It's surprising that people are still agitated about it.

Jimmy Carter: This is something that many people won't forget. It is the most courageous thing that the U.S. Senate ever did in its existence. They knew that it was politically unpopular, but they knew that it was right and needed. Of the 20 senators who voted for the Canal Treaties in 1978, who were up for re-election the next year, only seven of them came back. Thirteen of them didn't come back. And the attrition rate in 1980 was almost as bad. But it was the right thing to do -- an all-too-rare demonstration of political courage.

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This page last revised on Mar 26, 2011 10:41 EDT
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