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Jimmy Carter says Mideast peace is ‘vanishing’

JERUSALEM — President Carter said Monday during a visit to Jerusalem that the prospect of an Israel-Palestinian peace accord is vanishing, blaming Israeli settlement of the West Bank.

Carter, a longtime critic of Israeli policies, called the current situation catastrophic and blamed Israel for the growing isolation of east Jerusalem from the West Bank. He said a Palestinian state has become unviable.

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‘‘We’ve reached a crisis stage,’’ said Carter, 88. “The two-state solution is the only realistic path to peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians.’’

Carter is on a two-day visit leading a delegation known as the Elders, which includes the former prime minister of Norway and the former president of Ireland. The group met with President Shimon Peres of Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But they didn’t meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Carter said the delegation did not request a meeting because they have not been granted meetings on previous visits.

Former president points finger

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Netanyahu has pledged support for a Palestinian state but peace talks with the Palestinians have been frozen for most of his tenure.

Carter criticized him for not doing enough.

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‘‘Up until now, every prime minister has been a willing and enthusiastic supporter of the two-state solution,’’ he said.

The Palestinians say they will return to the negotiating table only if Israel freezes settlement construction on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians.

Israel said talks should resume without preconditions.

As president, Carter brokered the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. But since he left office, he has become increasingly critical of Israel.

His 2006 book, ‘‘Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,’’ asserted that Israel’s settlement of Palestinian land was the primary obstacle to Mideast peace. The book sparked widespread outrage in Israel.

Carter and the delegation also expressed concern about the divisions between the main Palestinian parties, Fatah and Hamas, and vowed to back a Palestinian bid for observer state status at the UN General Assembly in November.

The group departs on Tuesday for Egypt, where it will meet with newly elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

In a separate development Monday, Israeli aircraft struck the northern Gaza Strip, killing three Palestinian militants after mortar attacks targeted Israeli troops earlier in the day, officials said.

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