Former American President Jimmy Carter has offered an apology for “any words or deeds” of his that have stigmatised Israel.
The Nobel Prize Laureate told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA): “We must recognise 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 stigmatise 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 Chet for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.”
The Al Chet is a confessional prayer said on Yom Kippur in which worshippers ask forgiveness from God for their sins.
Mr Carter has, in the past, angered the Jewish community by comparing Israel’s policy in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa in his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He wrote: “When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements … with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa”.
Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, told the JTA that the statement was the “beginning of reconciliation. To what extent it is an epiphany, time will tell.”
Mr Carter’s grandson Jason, 34, is campaigning to represent a heavily Jewish suburb in the Georgia senate.