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Ambassador Edward S. Walker, Jr. '62

TIME Says Walker among finest American diplomats

By Vige Barrie
Posted July 31, 2009
Tags 1962 Edward Walker, Jr. Government Hamilton In the News
Last May, TIME’s senior correspondent for the Middle East described Edward S. Walker, Jr., ’62 as “among the finest American diplomats to have served in the State Department” in a piece titled “Wise Men To Obama: ‘We Stand With You.’” The reporter, Scott MacLeod was responding to an open letter to President Obama that Walker had written with three other acknowledged Middle East experts and former ambassadors, Robert Pelletreau, Samuel Lewis and Thomas Pickering, for the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that promotes U.S. diplomatic engagement in the Middle East.

In that letter, the four statesmen expressed their belief that a two-state solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians is a “formula [that] both advances America’s interests in the entire Middle East and is the best achievable means of ensuring Israel’s survival as a Jewish state and a democracy.”

It is not unusual for Ambassador Walker, the Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Professor in Global Political Theory, to be contacted by the media to share his wisdom and experience on the situation in the Middle East. His diplomatic career positions him as a sought-after commentator. He has served as U.S. ambassador to Israel (1997-1999), the Arab Republic of Egypt (1994-1997) and the United Arab Emirates (1989-1992), as well as Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations (1992-1993). In the course of his 35-year career, Walker worked with every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir, with Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, with Presidents Haffez Assad and Bashar al-Assad of Syria, with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and with Kings Hussein and Abdullah of Jordan, among others.

Ambassador Walker was asked to share his perspectives on President Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East by major media outlets including Bloomberg News, CBS, the BBC and Minnesota Public Radio. In addition to the letter to the president for the Israel Policy Forum, Walker’s opinions have also appeared recently on the op-ed pages of The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Common Ground News Service. The crisis in Gaza in the beginning of the year also generated calls for his comments from the BBC, CNBC, CBS and The Economist. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s formation of a coalition government was yet another event that triggered media requests for Walker’s input including from The Wall Street Journal.

His message remains the same. Ambassador Walker supports a two-state solution and the need for the United States to take a bold leadership position. He and his three fellow ambassadors outlined five achievable goals in their letter to the president to move the region closer to reaching that solution:

1. immediate renewal of U.S.-mediated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel;
2. cessation of Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis and of weapons smuggling into Gaza, and an increase in the number of American-trained Palestinian security forces in the West Bank;
3. freeze on West Bank settlement construction, the dismantling of superfluous checkpoints and illegal settlements and the cessation of demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem;
4. immediate reconstruction of Gaza with a focus on civilian needs and the local economy;
5. pursuit of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors, including Syria, using the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations.

Most recently Ambassador Walker was quoted extensively in The National, an English paper owned by an Abu Dhabi media company, in a July 26 article titled “How much pressure can Washington exert on Tel Aviv?” He said pressing Prime Minister Netanyahu too hard on the settlement issue is a “losing proposition.”

“You can push and push Bibi, but he will find a way around it,” he said, referring to the Israeli prime minister by his nickname. “He will not cross the settler movement at this point. He’s too weak politically and he happens to believe in it anyway.” He added that the settlement dispute will likely be resolved in backroom meetings where diplomats “talk turkey quietly, and see what they can work out.”

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