Palestinian Policy on Israel at a Crossroads

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If Hamas and Fatah do join in acknowledging Israel's right to exist, what are the prospects for improved Palestinian-Israeli relations? Edward Walker, Jr., president of the Middle East Institute and a former Ambassador to Israel, offers his insights to Alex Chadwick.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

For reaction to the news from Hamas and Fatah, we go to Edward Walker, Jr. He's former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt. He's now president of the Middle East Institute. Mr. Ambassador, first we hear this implicit recognition of Israel and then a Hamas official denying that that's what this agreement means. How do you assess what's going on?

Mr. EDWARD WALKER, JR. (Former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt; President, The Middle East Institute): Well, having read the agreement, I agree with the Hamas representative. It does not recognize Israel. It does talk about a right to establish a state in the territories occupied by 1967. But Hamas has always said that that would be the starting point, and that the future would still hold out the promise of taking the rest of Israel. So I don't see that this is in any sense recognition of the State of Israel. In addition, it talks about focusing the resistance on the occupied territories, but it doesn't talk about eliminating the resistance - resistance being a code word for terrorism. I think this is really a step backwards when these two get together on this document.

CHADWICK: This document, this is the so-called prison agreement, isn't it? This is something that was drafted by prisoners, Palestinian prisoners who are held by Israelis in prison. And they have come up with this document as a way to -what they think of as a step forward.

Mr. WALKER: That is correct. I think that what this document is meant to do is to bring the Palestinians together and to prevent the kind of civil war that has been pending in the Palestinian areas. But, and it may achieve that, which certainly would save lives. But it will not take us one step closer to any kind of an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, nor will it help in the standoff that currently exists between the two.

CHADWICK: When you characterize this as a step backwards, what do you mean by that?

Mr. WALKER: Well, it puts Fatah and the Palestinian Authority clearly on a agenda, which includes continued resistance in the occupied territories. In other words, attacks are legitimate. It talks about the Resolution 194 of the United Nations, which was the Right of Return Resolution which has been rejected by Israel and would clearly lead to an overwhelming Jewish population in Israel. I just think that it takes away negotiating space that would be necessary for the future. And it ignores a number of the issues that were worked out in the aftermath of Camp David, such as territorial exchanges and so on. So I don't see it as a step forward at all. I see it as a solidifying of the problem and the differences between the two.

CHADWICK: Edward Walker, Jr. is president of the Middle East Institute, speaking with us from Washington. Ambassador Walker, thank you.

Mr. WALKER: Thank you.

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