Elders in Zion


The Forward reports that a new group calling itself “The Elders” is dispatching Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson to Israel to help make peace. Go figure, but officials in Jerusalem aren’t exactly jumping for joy.

A little-known group of rather well-known former world leaders is trying its hand at Middle East peacemaking, with a contingent scheduled to visit the region next month on a self-proclaimed mission to “help people understand the urgency of peace.” But as they attempt to help resolve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, The Elders, as the group is known, find themselves facing what is perhaps an equally difficult task: overcoming the deep-rooted suspicion on the part of Israel and its supporters toward several of its members.

The Elders are a group of 12 senior statesmen formed last summer by Nelson Mandela, and most of its members are household names in the international arena. What has raised eyebrows in Jerusalem are the individuals the group is dispatching to the Middle East. In addition to former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, the contingent includes Jimmy Carter, former president and author of “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland who was outspokenly critical of Israel when she served as the U.N.’s high commissioner on human rights.

Israeli officials were reluctant to discuss the upcoming visit on the record, arguing that they had yet to be formally approached by The Elders. But an indication of Jerusalem’s concern about the group’s effort could be gleaned from the response of one official when asked for Israel’s views on the contingent’s individual members.

“We have no problem with Kofi Annan,” the official told the Forward.

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