JERUSALEM (Mar. 29)
Former President Jimmy Carter spent his weekend meeting Palestinians, touring the West Bank and rebuking Israelis for their continued occupation of the territories. He spoke out strongly for an international conference on Middle East peace and insisted that Syria would be willing to participate.
He said he would recommend to the Reagan Administration that it support an international conference and that it talk to representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Carter arrived here Thursday across the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, on the final leg of his Middle East tour. Earlier he had conferred with Egyptian officials in Cairo, Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus and King Hussein in Amman. The former President stressed repeatedly that he was travelling in private capacity and spoke for no one but himself.
Carter expressed his views at a closed meeting with Israeli academicians and newspaper editors at Tel Aviv University Sunday. Several of those who attended said later he was outspokenly critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and more sanguine than most Israelis of Arab willingness to come to the peace table. Some of his questioners said he seemed much too optimistic about Assad’s readiness to negotiate with Israel.
Carter visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron Saturday and told reporters afterwards that the fact Jews and Arabs lived together in that West Bank town was no indication of possible co-existence in the entire territory. He noted the presence of armed Israeli soldiers at the Tomb, a shrine sacred to Jews and Moslems. “It is obvious that they (the Palestinians) are living in very unpleasant circumstances,” he said.
Carter gave a reception Friday night in honor of 19 Palestinian leaders at the American Consulate in Jerusalem. He was later the dinner guest at the home of Dr. Yasser Obeid in Ramallah, the Jordanian official in charge of health services in the West Bank.
Carter lunched Saturday with Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem and on Sunday he visited the Agricultural Research Institution at Beit-Daggan and paid a call at the home of Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman in Caesaria.
On Sunday night he was the guest of Abdul Wahab Darawshe, an Arab Labor MK, at his home in Iskal village near Nazareth. Carter will receive an honorary degree from Haifa University Monday.
Last Friday, the former President was joined by his wife Rosalynn, who had spent an extra day in Jordan. Together they placed a wreath on the grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister.