Azmi Bishara: West will soon accept Israel can achieve nothing more in Gaza

Azmi Bishara: West will soon accept Israel can achieve nothing more in Gaza
Dr Azmi Bishara said the West is near concluding that Israel cannot achieve anything further in Gaza and again highlighted the need for rebuilding the PLO.
9 min read
22 April, 2024

The West is close to concluding there is nothing more Israel can achieve in Gaza, Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Dr Azmi Bishara has said in a new interview.

Bishara reiterated however that there can be no solution to the Palestinian issue until the leadership unites - within the framework of rebuilding the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), whatever happens elsewhere in the world, adding that countries like Qatar and Turkey could play a role in facilitating such efforts.

Otherwise, he warned, Gaza's administration in line with the US-Israeli terms would be disastrous, and would face resistance, even though Bishara thought it unlikely that Hamas would return to governing Gaza in the present circusmtances.

He also emphasised that Israel had plans for the West Bank which had in effect, been witnessing an intifada ("uprising") since 2021.

He touched on the issue of Qatar's negotiations and mediation between Israel and Hamas, deeming it unlikely they would achieve any results without a ceasefire, Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, and a full opening up to allow the entry of aid. He also described the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu as the main opponent of Qatar's mediation and the negotiations.

In Bishara's assessment, the direct confrontation between Iran and Israel had come to an end, and Netanyahu is now simply blackmailing the West using the prospect of escalation and de-escalation to extract backing for his agenda.

Unifying the Palestinian leadership

Bishara said in a new interview with Alaraby TV Sunday night that Israel's current approach indicates it has no clearly-defined plan for ending the war because its rulers don't have a specific vision regarding the "day after".  

He explained that the final juncture they are waiting for is the invasion of Rafah, at which point they will have occupied the whole of Gaza, and their plan is to remain after that within and around the central region of the Strip, ready to launch attacks when needed.

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"So Netanyahu has created a way out for himself by saying entering Rafah will mean victory in the war", he explained.

According to Bishara's analysis, Washington and Tel Aviv have, in the course of their direct talks, come close to a deal on the Rafah campaign. In this context, he stressed that the one real goal which had been achieved through Israel's war after 200 days, which will be on 23 April, was that the Strip had been rendered uninhabitable, with numerous statistics having been published showing the extent of the devastation to the Strip.

Despite that, all international pressure so far had been limited to calling for relief to enter, instead of expanding to encompass issues like reconstruction, and allowing people to resume their lives.

Bishara expressed doubt that invading and occupying Rafah would yield any of the Israeli leadership's goals, and believes "it won't be possible for Israel to impose an administration on Gaza by force, because no one will accept a Palestinian administration delivered on the back of an Israeli tank, and this will require a nationally agreed upon Palestinian government, if not a national unity government".

As for the US-Israeli vision of managing Gaza so that the Strip does not pose a threat to Israel, according to Bishara, it "will not succeed and will be resisted."

Bishara explained that the West was now nearing the conclusion there is nothing significant left for Israel to achieve in Gaza. Therefore, this was the opportune moment for the Palestinian side to reiterate and hold tight to its demand for a just resolution to the Palestinian issue, in a way that agency over this matter would fall into the hands of the Palestinian side - if it can unite.

He added that Qatar and Turkey were capable of playing an important role in convincing the relevant parties to unify the Palestinian leadership, "before governing bodies arrive on the back of Israel's tanks to take over, and impose an authority whose mission will be protecting Israel".

He justified this view by the fact that Turkey enjoys good relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and coordination with Qatar was important. He added, "we are in front of a great regional state which could play a role, the nature of which is still unknown (Turkey's), however any genuine role it plays will be positive".

On Turkey, Bishara mentioned that since the start of the war, the Turkish position had been less than hoped for, from the point of view of the Arab peoples, "however it's clear there has been a change of tone".

As to his analysis for the reasons behind this change, Bishara pointed out that the Turkish leadership had lost a segment of its popular base, which was apparent in the recent municipal elections, "and this is a main impetus for the attempt to retrieve what it has lost".

The other reason is that perhaps Turkey was genuinely alarmed while watching the participation of so many states coordinating to thwart Iran's attack on Israel on 13 April.

Qatari mediation

In response to a question about the Qatari mediation, and Qatar's reasons for hinting it would evaluate its mediatory role in light of the incitement of some against Doha, Bishara revealed that this statement is directed at Netanyahu personally, who he described as the main opponent of the mediation and the negotiations.

He pointed out that Qatar did not offer itself as a mediator, but was asked to do so and had paid a price for accepting this role.

Bishara added that there were states which didn't accept that it [Qatar] had relations with Hamas and with the Taliban before it. Today, these states are angry with Qatar playing a mediatory role and are inciting against it, and this "is a kind of jealousy, but on a state level" in his view, "in addition to some ignorant senators in the US who incite against Qatar, maybe supported by some embassies and perhaps the Israeli lobby".

As a side point on the negotiations on Gaza, Bishara added: "Egypt has not yet disagreed with Israel on any point in the negotiations."

US veto against State of Palestine

When asked if he found the US position on the Gaza war to be contradictory, and if the US had interests in the war continuing, Bishara answered that there was no contradiction in the US position as it was based on fully adopting Israel's interests, embracing Israel, and absolute support at all levels including military ones.

He stressed that the US agrees to a Palestinian state without borders, "however, not as a grant, given for free, but rather as part of a settlement in return for which Israel will receive many things".

He recalled that in the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian concessions related to accepting the postponing of pertinent issues relating to "the permanent solution", and now the US is talking about recognising a Palestinian state without borders "in a way that could fatally undermine the idea of a state, making it a subject to be bartered over".

In his view, the Palestinian shock over the US vetoing the UN Security Council vote to recognise a Palestinian state as a member in the UN was unmerited.

Bishara also dismissed the importance of the PA's threats to severe relations with the US because of its recent veto because these threats had been repeated; with previous contradictory threats also having been issued by the PA, "such as threatening to withdraw from Oslo and then stipulating Hamas must recognise Oslo to allow its entry into the Palestine Liberation Organisation".

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He concluded by asserting that "rebuilding the PLO on sound foundations would anger America more than any threat".

Plans for the West Bank

Regarding the undeclared Israeli war being waged on the West Bank, Bishara believed Tel Aviv had plans for the West Bank which had in effect been witnessing an intifada ("uprising") since 2021.

"They have plans on how to get rid of the resistance fighters there as is happening currently, especially in the north of the West Bank, where they are systematically working to exploit the opportunity to settle scores with these resistance cells".

He warned that the operations launched by Israel there are "semi-war and semi-reoccupation" and he paused on a new phenomenon which was the recruitment of settlers on two fronts, which had begun with Ariel Sharon and the "Hilltop Youth" gangs.

The first front was provoking deliberate clashes with Palestinian farmers, to push them to despair and surrender - and thus achieve the settlement of the West Bank.

The second front was their military recruitment into "special field units" such as the "Netzah Yehuda" battalion, which the US currently wants to sanction, although Bishara questioned how that would happen while Washington was supplying Tel Aviv with endless weapons and support. Bishara explained that these settlement units in the army were basically "criminals in military uniforms who use their outfits to carry out their ideological and settlement schemes".

He repeated that the PA was above all to blame because they did not undertake any effective measures to protect the farmers who were in the line of fire when it came to the settler gangs, who were groups of "thugs" and criminals, which was recognised by Europeans and Westerners in general.

Iran and Israel direct confrontation is over

Regarding the military back and forth between the Iranians and the Israelis last week, Bishara stated that no one wanted a regional war except Netanyahu - "however, he is unable to impose that on his allies".

According to Bishara, Israel was given more than it deserved from its allies because when it bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus (on April 1), it didn't consult anyone.

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He revealed that the Israelis had not expected an Iranian response, therefore they knew now that their intelligence had misled them. He said the whole world had protected Israel and ended the subject at this point, explaining that the Israeli response (last Friday) was coordinated with the Americans and was unannounced, resembling a "silent conspiracy" in a way which would not cause a regional war, end the direct confrontation, and give space for the hostilities to return to the same state they had been in before the consulate was bombed.

In fact, Bishara thinks that the confrontation between Iran and Israel is over now. Moreover, regarding this clash, what preceded it and included it, Bishara stressed that Netanyahu "was blackmailing the West [essentially seeking their support for his agenda] in exchange for not taking escalatory steps vis a vis Iran", bearing in mind "Israel is a professional at playing the victim and Iran isn't a popular state around the world for many reasons".