CAIRO, Egypt -- Former President Jimmy Carter, architect of the historic Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, said Israel's failure to live up to the treaty has stifled efforts to provide a homeland for stateless Palestinians.
Carter -- in the third day of a private visit to Egypt today -- met Thursday with President Hosni Mubarak and praised him for showing dedication to peace.
During an appearance later before the Egyptian chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Carter had some harsh words about former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin -- who signed the 1978 Camp David Accords with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Asked if he thought Israel has lived up to the agreement, Carter replied: 'No, it did not.' He said he felt Israel had failed to meet its commitments for resolution of the so-called Palestinian problem.
'If you read the Camp David Accords,' Carter said, 'it guarantees full autonomy for the Palestinians, guarantees consistent negotiations until the final status of the West Bank and Gaza can be determined. It calls for the Palestinian leaders to be thoroughly involved in these negotiations.'
Egypt and Israel failed to agree on the meaning of 'full autonomy' in three years of on-and-off negotiations and the talks were discontinued.
Carter said another obstacle to peace was Begin's insistence on building more Jewish settlements in the occupied Jordan West Bank and Gaza Strip.
'My clear understanding with Prime Minister Begin was that there would be no additional Israeli settlements built in the occupied territories until the peace process was concluded,' Carter said. 'His interpretation subsequently was that this restraint only applied for three months.'
Carter said Begin's 'interpretation or misinterpretation' of the agreements 'caused a furor in the Arab world' and made Jordan's King Hussein join other Arabs in condemning the Camp David Accords.
The former president, who lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980, aIso was critical of the Reagan administration's Middle East policy, citing a diminished U.S. role in efforts to restore peace to the region.
'I think it is accurate to say that we've lost the initiative,' he said.
'President Reagan has not been inclined to use diplomacy as a means to achieve our nation's goals nearly so much as his Democratic and Republican predecessors,' Carter said.
'He is more inclined to exert America's military strength, either in actual use of it, or the threat,' he said, adding that the Iran arms scandal has damaged U.S. standing in the region.