Jimmy Carter to U.S. Jews: Forgive Me for Stigmatizing Israel

Ex-president offers 'al-het', says 'we must recognize Israel's achievements under difficult circumstances'.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has apologized to the American Jewish community for 'stigmatizing Israel' and asked for forgiveness for his actions, the JTA reported on Monday.

"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 wrote in a letter to the JTA.

"As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so," Carter wrote, referring to the prayer said on Yom Kippur in which Jews ask God for forgiveness for any sins.

Carter has angered American Jews in the past by likening Israeli policy in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa in his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid".

According to the JTA, Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman, who in the past claimed Carter's comments bordered on anti-Semitism, welcomed the former president's statement.

"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."