“We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” by Jimmy Carter; Simon & Schuster; 216 pages; $27

Jimmy Carter poked into a hornet’s nest with his last book on the Middle East, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It provoked comparisons of Palestinian treatment under Israeli occupation to racial oppression in 20th-century South Africa.

The biggest question raised by the former president’s latest treatise on the subject, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” may be whether long-held ideas of peace remain relevant, considering Israel’s recent attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Carter, whose landmark peace efforts as president led to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt 30 years ago, appears to consciously avoid the type of language that prompted critics to soundly condemn “Palestine,” especially among American Jewish groups.

When it was published in late 2006, Carter said he hoped to stimulate debate after six years of stalled Middle East peace talks. The apartheid comparison, which he actually drew from Israeli commentary on the occupation, induced so much outrage that one of his most trusted advisers at The Carter Center resigned, along with 14 members of an advisory committee.

“Holy Land,” published by Simon & Schuster on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes office, is meant to encourage the new administration to embrace renewed peace efforts promptly, and to provide some guidelines.

Besides offering a defense of his last literary foray into the subject, Carter devotes much of the new book to recounting the history of conflict in the region, previous peace efforts and explanation various players’ positions in current and future talks.

He makes a strong case for involving Hamas, which has widespread support in both Gaza and the West Bank but has been spurned by Israel and the United States as a possible partner in negotiations.

Carter reminds the reader again and again of a common goal – a two-state solution guaranteeing Israel’s secure and peaceful existence alongside a Palestinian state in Gaza and in the West Bank, where ever-expanding Jewish settlements are a thorn for both Arabs and the Israeli government.

But it is not until the final chapter that Carter provides a basic framework, returning largely to pre-1967 borders with some sort of sharing of Jerusalem, a measure of rights for Arab refugees to return to the occupied territories and an end to settlement expansion.

It is the penultimate chapter that raises the most intriguing prospect, considering the continuing difficulty of bringing the two sides together, underscored by the recent Gaza violence: the possibility of one state, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and from Lebanon to the Sinai. This territory is now home to about 5.5 million Jews and a like, but rapidly expanding, number of Arabs.

Carter notes that a growing number of Palestinians are beginning to lean toward this prospect as an eventual solution, but many Israeli leaders fear it could lead to the end of Israel.

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