ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Former President Jimmy Carter said Saturday that the storm of criticism he has faced for his recent book has not weakened his resolve for fair treatment of Israelis and Palestinians.
"I have been called a liar," Carter said at a town hall meeting on the second day of a three-day symposium on his presidency at the University of Georgia.
"I have been called an anti-Semite," he said. "I have been called a bigot. I have been called a plagiarist. I have been called a coward. Those kind of accusations, they concern me, but they don't detract from the fact the book is accurate and is needed."
Following the publication of the book: "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," 14 members of an advisory board to his Carter Center resigned in protest. Those former board members and other critics contend the book is unfairly critical of Israel.
"Not one of the critics of my book has contradicted any of the basic premises ... that is the horrible persecution and oppression of the Palestinian people and secondly that the formula for finding peace in the Middle East already exists," the 82-year-old Carter said.
Carter said he was pleased the book has stimulated discussion of an issue that has been "omitted from the public consciousness" for at least the last six years.
"Israel needs peace and the Palestinian people need peace and justice and I hope my limited influence will help to precipitate some steps," he said.
Also Saturday, Carter, at times emotional, told a town hall meeting of how he saved the 1978 Camp David peace talks when it appeared Egyptian president Anwar Sadat would leave.
Carter said in the first three days of the talks Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin often argued. After about a week, Carter said, Sadat reached a breaking point and packed his bags to return to Egypt — and Carter "knelt down and prayed and I asked God to help me."
Carter said he then walked to Sadat's cabin.
"Sadat and I stood with our noses almost touching and I told him that he had betrayed me and betrayed his own people and if he left our friendship was severed forever and the relationship between the United States and Egypt would suffer."
Sadat agreed to stay, and the Camp David Accords were signed after 12 days of negotiations.
The three-day conference was arranged to mark the 30th anniversary of Carter's 1977 inauguration.
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