Azmi Bishara: Every Arab state needs to support the Palestinians today - it is in their own interest
Dr Azmi Bishara, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has said it is unlikely that any scenario could unfold where Palestinians are expelled from the Gaza Strip or the West Bank as long as Egypt and Jordan maintain their firm opposition.
In a new interview with Alaraby TV to discuss Israel's brutal assault on Gaza, Bishara said that the resistance has only deployed ten percent of its capabilities so far, and that he believes the national security of every Arab country requires their regimes to adopt the correct stance today, against Israel and with the Palestinians.
He also stated that Egypt was not exploiting the leverage it has in order to break the Gaza siege, and disclosed new details on the prisoner exchange negotiations taking part between Hamas and Israel.
The state of play
Bishara said that only a fraction of the Palestinian resistance's capacity, perhaps not exceeding ten percent, had taken part in the battle so far.
He predicted the ferocity of the resistance would increase if Israeli forces venture underground in the tunnels.
Israel's tactic of emptying areas of their civilian population would backfire, Bishara added, as it would increase the ability of the resistance to launch intensive operations.
"After Israel finishes with the 'easy task' – killing civilians – they will begin to face fierce resistance" he continued, as happened recently in Rantisi hospital and other sites in northern Gaza after they were evacuated.
Bishara reiterated his conviction that Israel's capacity to withstand losses wasn’t limitless, although they were capable of continuing at the present moment and for as long as there was domestic consensus on the war, and US support.
Regarding the media performance of the resistance factions, Bishara stressed that it should give more detailed accounts because "people are more inclined to believe the resistance's narrative today".
Bishara also pointed out that the precise events of 7 October and the Hamas military operation needed dissecting: "While, given the scale of what has happened between then and now, returning to the events of October 7 may seem to be hair splitting, and perhaps inappropriate, the fact that Israel itself is publishing emerging accounts of what happened that day actually makes this the appropriate time for the resistance to present its account of those events".
He was referring to recent reports in Israeli media about many Israelis having been killed by Israeli crossfire, who were originally included in the death toll for those killed by Palestinians on “Black Saturday”, as Israel is calling it.
On a related note, Bishara explained that some international media organisations are trying to save face now, like the BBC and CNN, and are trying to compensate for having promoted Israel's lies.
He stressed: "This is a media battle that must be fought relentlessly for the truth - and to expose the lies".
On Israel's failure to learn from history and realise the futility of applying pressure on the civilian population to destroy the resistance, Bishara pointed out that Israel's settler colonial regime - which has always been dedicated to dispossessing the Palestinians and replacing them with Jewish Israeli settlers - produces racist concepts like those expressed by Israeli government ministers, such as that the Palestinians are "human animals".
This is a mentality "which prevents them thinking rationally and realising that a political solution is the only solution with the Palestinians, the true owners of the land".
He pointed out that if the Palestinians were to conclude a peace deal with Israel, it would be they who had made concessions, not Israel. He concluded, that Israel would “be mad to refuse to engage in political negotiations later down the line” with “this Palestinian resistance which it wishes to eradicate, yet doesn’t dare to confront them underground where they are”.
Prisoner swap deal
Regarding the negotiation on the prisoner exchange being mediated by Qatar, Bishara deemed it unlikely there were serious disputes between Israeli officials on this issue (as some hinted).
This is because the generals have drawn up their war plan, agreed on it, and are proceeding with it – and this applies to the "prisoner deal" and other aspects of the war, he explained.
They also all agree that the best way to free the Israeli prisoners and hostages is additional military pressure on Hamas. He described this approach as one of a "primitive, tribal and vengeful [desire to] destroy" Palestinian society to put pressure on Hamas – which is textbook terrorism.
He added that Israeli generals are still rejecting the number of days of ceasefire Hamas is demanding and say they don't believe Hamas only knows the whereabouts of 50 Israeli civilian hostages in the Strip. However, he hoped the deal would be finalized "today or tomorrow".
On this topic, Bishara also revealed that the Israelis had abandoned the dual-nationality holders and that Hamas was releasing them "on its own initiative".
Lots of evidence indicated Israeli prisoners "weren't the priority of Netanyahu's government", including the fact that Hamas had warned repeatedly that prisoners would die [as a result of Israel's heavy and indiscriminate bombardment], but this is nothing new, added Bishara.
He said current proposals hinged around Hamas claiming knowledge of where 50 prisoners and hostages were being held, and they were requesting a ceasefire for long enough to gather them in one place and secure their transfer to the Israeli authorities in exchange for the release of Palestinian children and women imprisoned in Israel.
Gaza, where newborns are orphaned or killed before their first breath 👇 https://t.co/DplScaGL9R— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) November 20, 2023
Hamas were also demanding the entry of sufficient aid, exceeding 150 trucks with enough fuel and gas to operate the vital sectors, and the ball was now "in Israel's court".
Mass displacement unlikely
Regarding Israel's possible plans of mass displacement, starting with Gaza and then moving on to the West Bank, Bishara described this possibility as "difficult" as that "can't happen without the region permitting it, primarily Egypt and then Jordan".
However, he warned of the danger from "some Israeli fanatics" and their obsession with reducing the number of inhabitants in Gaza.
However, he thinks the real goal behind the extraordinary level of Israeli violence and criminality being committed is its desire to restore its prestige and deterrent power - which was lost on 7 October.
As well as this they are aiming to destroy Hamas, rather than at expulsion, because Israeli society "during crises acts like a tribe which unites in a vengeful and primitive way to teach the other side a lesson".
On events unfolding in the West Bank where Palestinians are being expelled from their homes, Bishara says the settlers there are trying to exploit what is happening in Gaza to force residents off the agricultural lands they have been coveting - so they can seize them.
However, he is certain that "displacing the West Bank population to Jordan would be very difficult to achieve, and the Arabs, Egypt and Jordan, are capable of thwarting any displacement plans".
Egypt and breaking the siege
On Egypt's behaviour towards the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, Bishara says: "As long as a large state like Egypt waits for permission from the other party to either deliver aid or take the wounded, it is not exploiting the leverage it has as the largest Arab state, from which more is expected today".
On the power Egypt wields, Bishara points out that "Israel and the US need [Egypt] and wouldn't start a war against it" if it unilaterally decided to send aid trucks into Gaza, bearing in mind also that 58 Arab and Muslim states had also pledged their support in this respect at the 11 November Arab-Islamic Joint Summit in Riyadh.
Politically, Bishara repeated that "what happens in the Gaza Strip needs an Arab stance where serious steps are adopted against Israel like severing relations and other strategic measures".
On what the Arab states need to do, Bishara mentioned that some Arab states have banned the raising of Palestinian flags, as well as any demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians.
He said reasons for this relate to negative stances taken vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause, fear of the issue impinging on their relations with the US, and a reluctance to stand up to the Western position.
However, Bishara warned starkly: "What the Arab rulers need to understand is that both their interests and the national security interests of their own countries require them to adopt the correct position today – against Israel and in solidarity with the Palestinians."
The US and a "revitalized" PA
Bishara maintained that there remains no serious difference in stance between the US and Israel. However, there were "differences on details" regarding what Israel will be able to achieve in its war. However, he described these as just "requests and wishes without condemnations nor stances".
As evidence, he mentioned the recent Washington Post newspaper article by US President Joe Biden "where he spoke about revitalising the Palestinian Authority to rule Gaza one day" as though "promising something new" - as though the problem in Palestine lies in changing the leadership in the West Bank: not the Occupation, Israeli aggression and the settlements.
Bishara sarcastically noted the fact that Biden and Israel also view President Mahmoud Abbas as "extreme" on some positions (like the 1967 borders and the issue of Jerusalem) and want him to make yet more concessions.
He also warned that Biden was talking about the two-state solution "in the context of his personal opinion" and not as binding American policy.
Therefore, "all the chatter today about the two-state solution was no more than rehashed talk because the issue today is solely stopping the war on Gaza – nothing else," says Bishara.
He added that "even this non-binding statement isn't approved by Israel because it would prefer to have a militia ruling the Gaza Strip instead of having a single authority ruling the West Bank and Gaza".
Bishara warned that if the Arabs fail to make a stance "regarding what is happening, once the war is over, Israel will feel it will never need to offer anything at all to the Arabs".
In Bishara's opinion, the PA appears to be acting against its own interests - as it knows the extent of the Israeli conspiracy against it, and that its turn is coming.
In this context, he questions: "Is it reasonable that the first time the PA contacted Hamas was 40 days after the assault started?"
He also gave other examples of the "poor positions" taken by the PA, like the fact that none of its representatives have yet headed to the Rafah crossing to apply pressure for it to be opened.
On Day 44 of Israel's assault, Bishara said Israel had developed what you could call a "hospital syndrome" when it came to its shelling and killing of hospital patients, followed by the forced evacuation of hospitals.
He reiterated that the targeting of hospitals is an unprecedented and monstrous act. He also highlighted once more the seriousness of Israel's lies - which had been exposed - regarding the tunnels and the military equipment in the hospitals.
"Even if there were fighters in the hospitals, which has not been proven, it would still be forbidden to bomb hospitals."
He stated, "the outrageous act of targeting medical facilities was a scandal implicating the international community and not just Israel."
Bishara was certain that "as long as there is a green light from the US and consensus in Israel […] and an absence of serious steps taken by the Arabs, we must expect worse things to come."