Edward S. "Ned" Walker Jr. '62, former ambassador to Israel and Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of International Affairs gave a talk on "The Middle East After Iraq" on September 16 at Hamilton. Walker's talk coincided with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Accords (Sept. 17, 1978).
While Walker credits Camp David with providing "the framework for peace in the Middle East" he continued, "25 years have passed, hundreds of thousands of hours of negotiations have taken place ...I can attest to those hours... thousands of lives have been lost on both sides and yet it seems we are no closer today to a solution .... If anything we face greater skepticism and violence today."
A recent effort of the U.S. was to create the "Road Map" for the Palestinians and Israelis to follow toward ending violence, stabilizing the situation and moving forward on negotiations. Walker said, "The crisis over Palestinian leadership has called into question what little hopes we have that the 'Road Map' will lead us out of the morass."
Walker described a time when he was trying to persuade Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon to shake hands with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The idea was that Sharon's refusal was undermining negotiations and it would be diplomatic to shake hands. "Sharon was like a rock," Walker said. "He told me 'Arafat is a terrorist; he has Israeli blood on his hands and I will never shake that man's hand.' I believed him...[and today] Sharon hasn't changed his mind one bit."
As a consequence of Arafat's recent activities, there has been an Israeli push to oust or kill him but Walker said he agreed with Israeli security assessment of the danger of either of these actions. He explained Arafat would be more dangerous outside of some kind of Israeli surveillance and that killing him would only make him a martyr. He spoke of Arafat's actions over the years saying, "He is not a partner for peace... He's part of the problem, not part of the solution."
Addressing U.S. policy on Iraq, Walker said, "Iraq is one of the least likely countries in the region to move to democratic rule ... It is not an impossible task to change Iraq but it will take time, lots of time and it will take lots of resources to succeed. By contrast of all the places in the region where democracy could take hold quickly, the most likely is the Palestinian authority. The Palestinians have the education ... they have the experience of democracy through living next to Israel... they seek to emulate the Israeli political system. If we put a fraction of the effort and resources in the Palestine areas that we are putting in Iraq, the administration would have its showcase. But it's name would be Palestine not Iraq. "
Walker concluded, "The administration has pointed the way by building the 'road map' ... it has the opportunity now to carry forward with that leadership.... This is the time for clarity and leadership that only the United States and the president of the United States can provide."