Alwaght- Whereas the Palestinian groups need unity and cohesion at the present time more than ever to counter their occupying enemy amid the crimes of the far-right Israeli cabinet in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders have adopted a path separate from time-tested resistance. In this connection, Israeli-PA security summit under efforts to achieve peace and “build trust” was held on Sunday with the participation of Egypt and under the auspices of the US in Aqaba, Jordan. The summit appeared to seek further coordination between Tel Aviv and the PA to crack down on the Palestinians and uproot armed operations by resistance groups. Resistance factions condemned its arrangement and even labeled the PA attendance in it a “betrayal of the Palestinian cause.”
For details on the meeting, Alwaght talked to Jaafar Qanadbashi, an Iranian expert of West Asia affairs.
Alwaght: What is behind this summit given the intensified tensions in the West Bank in recent months?
Qanadbashi: The US and the Israeli regime follow several goals behind this summit. The Israelis are seeking to change the public notion that the US is opposed to hardline Netanyahu government. The US attendance served this objective. But the main reason is that the Israelis and the Americans are worried about possible Palestinian revolt and retaliatory attacks for Israeli crimes in Nablus. They are afraid that the Palestinian groups may launch large-scale armed actions in the holy month of Ramadan and the West Bank gain its independence like Gaza. Therefore, they are trying to attract the PA security forces to their side and use them to suppress this possible revolt throughout the West Bank in order to disarm the resistance and foment an intra-Palestinian conflict. They know that if the Israeli forces enter Al-Khalil and Nablus, there will be intense clashes between the resistance forces and them, and this is not in the interest of Tel Aviv and Washington.
Alwaght: Resistance groups opposed the summit and described it an Israeli scheme to sow division among the Palestinians while the PA and Jordan suggest it cuts the Israeli violations. What is the reason behind the resistance groups’ pessimism about intentions of the PA?
Qanadbashi: The resistance groups have always voiced their opposition to any pro-compromise move, but in the current situation, this opposition has other conditions and drivers. The resistance groups think that the PA chose silence when it has to come against the crimes and plans of the hardline Israeli government. The Palestinians have been in an uprising over the past two years, and this issue has spread throughout Palestine in an unprecedented way. The hardline government of Tel Aviv is trying to integrate the West Bank into the occupied territories and they openly declare this aim. In such a situation, the sitting of the PA representatives with the Israelis on a table is a big betrayal of the Palestinian people, and that is why Palestinian groups organized a demonstration against this meeting.
These days, all eyes are on the West Bank. This tense region has several features. First, the PA has influence in it, and second, the Palestinian anti-occupation struggle is active in it. And third, the Israelis are pushing to take control of the West Bank but since the Palestinian groups are fighting back, the Israeli regime is worried about armed struggle in the holy month of Ramadan to force the Israelis out of this region. In such situation, attendance of the PA representatives is a service to the Israelis and a betrayal of Palestine.
Alwaght: Why did the PA participate at Aqaba summit while at Algeria summit in October last year it signed a unity commitment with other Palestinian groups? Some sources claimed that the US in this meeting pushed for Gaza control by the PA with the Egyptian help. Is this true and how likely is it?
Qanadbashi: This emergency meeting was held at the request of the Israelis, because they feel that they are in a very dangerous situation with a possibility of a third intifada, and this meeting was not in response to Algeria summit. The Israeli authorities are very worried about the possible developments in Ramadan. They are afraid of the unity between the Palestinian groups in Gaza and the West Bank, and they feel threatened that the West Bank will turn into a front similar to Gaza against the occupation. There are reports talking about Israeli soldiers deserting the army and defying the orders to implement the cabinet’s hardline plans that lead to the escalation of tension with the Palestinians, something posing a serious threat to Tel Aviv officials. Therefore, in addition to the threats of resistance abroad, inside the occupied territories, the security forces, who are responsible for suppressing the Palestinian uprising, are not ready to obey their commanders.
Obviously, since 2006, the PA lost its away in Gaza and it never again managed to rebuild it because Gaza residents think different from the PA whose thought is in favor of compromises to the occupation. The PA once was struggling against the Israeli occupation, but now its leaders are corrupt and compromising and suspected by the Palestinian people. Reports about giving Gaza administration to the PA are just a political bluff and are practically impossible.
Israel’s main concern now is that the residents of the West Bank are following the Gaza resistance groups instead of the PA, and they have declared their alliance with these groups and have chosen the path of armed struggle to confront the occupiers. Therefore, the plan to give control of Gaza to the PA is a distractive act and a kind of propaganda to cover up the existing realities. In the current situation, the opposite is true, and even the West Bank administration is out of the sphere of influence of the PA, and Gaza-based resistances influence in this region is increasing day by day. One should blame this popular separation from the PA on its security and intelligence cooperation with the Israeli regime in crackdown on the Palestinians. Therefore, the countries present at the Aqaba meeting sought to task the PA with suppressing the Palestinians to put an end to the armed struggle.
Alwaght: The Israeli regime has tightened security measures in recent days out of the fear of operations by resistance groups. How effective was the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan in the Israeli engagement in Jordan-hosted talks? Some Arab sources said that the participants agreed on detention of resistance members in the West Bank and the PA plans recruitment of 10,000 new forces. How likely is this plan?
Qanadbashi: That the Israeli officials say they are not afraid of the Palestinians shows that they are extremely worried. Before forming the government, the far-right members promised implementation of their controversial plans, but when they took the office, they faced massive criticism. Now, the conditions are not in favor of the Israelis and even the US had to condemn new settlement plan in the West Bank since this project means continuation of occupation. On the other hand, the Arab world’s public does not tolerate the clampdown on the Palestinians and the Israeli hardline leaders are worried about this issue. Ariel Sharon, the hardline former Israeli prime minister, held that the Gaza Strip should be a buffer zone, but the Palestinians expelled the Israelis from this enclave in 2006. Now a scenario like that of Sharon is being pursued by the radical politicians. Sharon was focused on Gaza, but people like the Minister of Internal Security Itmar Ben-Gvir are focused on the West Bank for annexation, but when they see the large scale of the Palestinian revolt, they are worried that what happened in Gaza will be repeated in the West Bank, and this is a nightmare for the Israeli officials.
The Israeli regime intends to check the struggle of the Palestinian groups with promises of land and money to the PA. But the resistance groups stand against the PA, condemn its attending of Aqaba summit, and describe it a traitor to Palestine. Currently, intra-Palestinian unity is in its best conditions, but it is unacceptable for the PA forces to turn into an infantry suppressing the Palestinians.
Alwaght: Can the possible outcomes of the summit ease Israeli security crisis in the West Bank?
Qanadbashi: No. By arranging such meetings, Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan intend to say that the US still backs the Arabs. But the American representatives were present as mediators at Aqaba summit and pretended that the compromise process that was initiated by the US President Jimmy Carter still lives on to set a prelude to new compromise deal. The Americans work on shifting the Palestinian struggle to negotiations and compromise and pretend that the solution to Palestinian dispute is political and the two-state solution would be implemented. But the resistance groups insist that the only way to liberation is armed struggle. These are two opposite views.