Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Foreign Minister of Israel and has been a key participant in many Arab-Israeli peace conferences, most notably the Camp David Summit in 2000. President Clinton says that his new book, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, “should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This week we had the opportunity to ask him some questions as Palestinians prepare to vote in parliamentary elections, in spite of the violence reported today.
Besides Hamas and Fatah, are there any other parties that could take a significant share of the votes on Wednesday?
Who do you think will win the elections?
What is probable is that Fatah will win the elections. I am not sure at all that Hamas are interested in winning them, for this would that they would assume responsibilities of government that, among other things recognizing Israel and negotiating with it. My guess is that Hamas will prefer to form a joint front in a new militant Palestinian parliament with the more radical sections of Fatah. In this way they can maintain their political “virginity” ( a major reason for their wide popular support) and at the same time have an overwhelming influence on national politics.
How would a victory by Hamas affect the peace process?
Part of the answer can be found in the paragraph above. But if Hamas wins the elections the peace process, which for all practical purposes is non existent anyway, will be entirely paralysed unless Hamas accepts the conditions of both the EU and the United States and do two things: a. disarms. b.Changes its covenant and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
If Mahmoud Abbas resigns, as he suggested he might today, would we then see someone from Hamas elevated to president of the Palestinian Authority?
I can’t see that possibility at all. If Abbas resigns, which is perfectly possible because the man is a quitter by nature, then it will be another high ranking member of Fatah that will replace him.
What do you make of Ehud Olmert’s conditional offer to enter into “final status negotiations” with Mahmoud Abbas?
I must admit that Olmert’s declaration came as a surprise to me. This has never been the policy of Sharon to have a negotiated final settlement with the Palestinians. He believed in unilateral steps. My guess is that Olmert was here trying to put pressure on Hamas and on the Palestinian Authority to move to a stage of orederly behaviour, including end of terrorism. Olmert may like to engage in negotiations, but I don’t believe that he wants them to deal with the final settlement. He may expect to be able to coordinate any future Israeli disengagement in the West Bank with a responsible Palestinian Authority.
Click here to read Dr. Ben-Ami’s Q&A on where Israel goes without Sharon.