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Lerner Reaches Out to President Carter

While leaders from across the Jewish spectrum have rushed to condemn former president Jimmy Carter and his new book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,” at least one prominent Jewish figure has headed in the opposite direction.

Michael Lerner, founding editor of the liberal bimonthly Tikkun, wrote in an email to the magazine’s contributors early this month that he is in the process of exploring the possibility of working with the former president to build support for a left-wing alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Lerner mentioned that he and Carter had just spoken on the phone about the issue, but declined to discuss specifics, saying the chat was confidential.

Lerner is not alone among Jews on the left eager to launch a counterweight to the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse. The Forward and JTA have reported that financier George Soros has been consulting with leaders of dovish groups, including the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, on launching some sort of pro-peace process initiative.

In an interview with the Forward, Lerner said that his envisioned collaboration with Carter would be in harmony with the efforts of Soros and liberal Jewish groups, not in competition with them.

“What I like about the Soros enterprise is that they are trying to bring together different groups, and I hope we’ll work together in a cooperative way,” he said.

Asked if the furor over Carter’s book would inhibit the former president’s ability to be an agent of change, Lerner demurred.

“He’s a guy who just won the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s the only president who actually delivered an agreement with Arab states that has lasted,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be that easy to have him be discredited. And, he’s very popular in the United States. The Jewish world would be making a huge mistake were they to try to make him into an enemy.”

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