Hamas as ‘terrorist’ organization hampers peace process: James Baker

One solution to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis is to have non-Hamas members from the Gaza Strip negotiating peace, a former U.S. official told Al Arabiya.

“Israel and the United States will not work with Hamas because it is seen to be a terrorist organization,” James Baker, who served as the Chief of Staff in the final year of the administration of President George H.W. Bush said.

Baker, also the Secretary of State during H. W. Bush’s era, cited strategies used in the Madrid Conference in 1991, where Palestinians who were not members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – listed as a terrorist organization by Washington and Tel Aviv at the time – to negotiate peace with the Israelis.

“To promote peace we used the construct of Palestinians from within the territories because we couldn’t work with the PLO,” he said.

However, in spite of Israel, the PLO brought an unofficial “advisory delegation,” to act as liaison with the Palestinian representatives.

So, Baker has advised finding Palestinians from Gaza, not members of Hamas to represent people from the enclave.

Hamas, an Islamist movement, who doesn’t recognize the Jewish state yet, has functioned as the de facto ruler of Gaza from 2007.

Reflecting on why the Madrid Conference has failed to fulfill peace, Baker said a hardline Israeli government and divided Palestinians hampered the efforts in 1991.

“[The Madrid peace process] subsequently ran around. Now it is very difficult… because you have a very hardline government in Israel, who is not particularly aggressive in trying to promote peace process, and the Palestinians polity that is split between two groups.”

The three-day Madrid Conference, which was co-sponsored by the U.S. and the Soviet Union, symbolizes early efforts made to promote peace through negotiations between Palestinians and Israeli’s.

Baker’s full interview will be shown in three episode’s for Al Arabiya TV’s Political Memory program. The first episode will be aired on March 15.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 05 March 2013 KSA 22:22 - GMT 19:22
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