Former president Jimmy Carter sent an "open letter to the Jewish community" via the Jewish Telegraphic Agency earlier this week. In it, he apologized for his past statements criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians (a few years ago, he wrote a book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid). Here's the letter:

An open letter to the Jewish community at the season of Chanukah from former President Jimmy Carter:

The time of Chanukah and the Christian holidays presents an occasion for reflection on the past and for looking to the future. In that vein, I wish to share some thoughts with you about the State of Israel and the Middle East.

I have the hope and a prayer that the State of Israel will flourish as a Jewish state within secure and recognized borders in peaceful co-existence with its neighbors and with all the Moslem States, and that this peaceful co-existence will bring security, prosperity and happiness to the people of Israel and to the people of the Middle East of all faiths.

I have the hope and a prayer that the bloodshed and hatred will change to mutual respect and cooperation, fulfilling the prophetic aspiration that the lion shall lie down with the lamb in harmony and peace. I likewise hope that violent attacks against all civilians will end, which will help set a better framework for commencing negotiations. I further hope that peace negotiations can soon commence, with all issues on the negotiating table.

I have the hope and a prayer that just as Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, the State of Israel will fulfill its destiny as a light unto the nations.

We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.

May we work and pray for that better day.

Hag Semach and Happy Chanukah.


The JTA explains, "'Al Het' refers to the Yom Kippur prayer asking God forgiveness for sins committed against Him. In modern Hebrew it refers to any plea for forgiveness." Carter also denies that his grandson Jason's possible Senate run in Georgia prompted him to offer the Al Het.

The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman said, "When a former president reaches out to the Jewish community and asks for forgiveness, it's incumbent of us to accept it. To what extent this is an epiphany, only time will tell. There certainly was a lot of hurt, a lot of angry words that need to be repaired. But this is a good start."