Carter: I don’t envision Israel pulling out of Gush Etzion settlements

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jimmy Carter said he does not envision Israel withdrawing from the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements.

"This particular settlement is not one that I envision ever being abandoned or changed over into a Palestinian territory," the former U.S. president said Sunday after meeting with settler leader Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council in the West Bank settlement of Neve Daniel. "This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever."

Carter said he was there to "listen to the settlers," and that he "hoped to make sure they understand my own attitude toward Israel and the Jewish population in the world and toward the Jewish settlers," according to Ha’aretz.

Carter was honored Saturday by the Palestinian Authority during a visit to Ramallah.

In accepting the Palestine International Award for Excellence and Creativity, Carter told PA leaders that he would continue to fight for Palestinian statehood.

Carter was scheduled to meet with Israeli officials on Sunday, including President Shimon Peres. He also was scheduled to enter Gaza.

On Friday, the father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit gave Carter a letter to deliver to his son.

Noam Shalit said he hoped Carter could help the effort to release his son, who was abducted by Hamas three years ago. The elder Shalit, according to media reports, noted that Carter is the "only American in contact with Hamas" and that Carter promised to help.

A year ago, the Carter Center in Ramallah received a letter via fax from Gilad Shalit and gave it the Shalit family in Israel.

Carter was in Lebanon last week to observe the country’s elections.

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