Former President Jimmy Carter on Thursday called US plans to mediate the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians by shuttling back and forth between the two parties a "feeble effort" toward bringing lasting peace to the Middle East.
He also encouraged President Barack Obama's White House to take a more balanced position in its relations with Israel.
"There's no doubt that in general the United States government has been much more attuned to the sensitivities of the Israelis and has yielded excessively to the circumstances in the Holy Land as Israel has confiscated several lands within Palestine," Carter said at the opening of a two-day conference on US-Arab relations.
He added: "I hope that in the future we'll see the United States taking a much more balanced position and doing everything possible to implement a two-state solution" that establishes an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.
The remarks come as Washington has expressed rare public outrage over
Israel's plans to build new Jewish homes in a traditionally Arab part of Jerusalem. The diplomatic row threatens to derail Obama's latest push for a long-sought peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians to end a conflict that has fueled anti-American sentiment in the region.
George Mitchell, the Obama administration's special envoy for Mideast peace, was supposed to have been shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians this week. But he canceled his
Mideast visit as the administration awaited word from Israelis on whether they would take steps to reassure Washington and the Palestinians.
Carter has long been a vocal critic of Israeli policies, outraging many Jews with a 2006 book that compared Israeli treatment of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza to the legalized oppression of blacks that once existed in South Africa.
The Georgia Democrat issued an open letter apologizing
for any words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community in December, but he has remained a staunch critic of Israeli policies.
He criticized the Jewish nation's blockade of the Gaza Strip on Thursday and encouraged Israel to halt new construction of settlements in Palestinian territories.
Still, he said, the Middle East peace process is "not a hopeless cause" and said that brokering a deal has been his top priority since he lost re-election in 1980.
"I think with a strong and determined commitment to the two-state solution ... that peace is still on the table. But it's going to require a dramatic change in the policy of the present government of Israel," he said.