In a letter to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published Monday, Carter offered a holiday message wishing for an Arab-Israeli peace.
"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," Carter's message said. "As I would have noted at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het (a plea for forgiveness) for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so."
Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for his humanitarian work after leaving office, has stirred up ire within the Jewish community within recent years with comments that compare Israel's settlement policies in the West Bank and elsewhere to apartheid and that blame the pro-Israel lobby for an uneven U.S. foreign policy.
Abraham Foxman, national director for the Anti-Defamation League, called Carter's statement the "beginning of reconciliation."
"We welcome any statement from a significant individual, such as a former president who asks for Al Het," Foxman said. "To what extent it is an epiphany, time will tell. There certainly is hurt which needs to be repaired."
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