Israel Is Just Looking for an Excuse

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interview with Dr. Hossein Salimi
University Professor and Expert on International Issues

Active ImageQ: Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians restarted last week after a two-year break. Why international community is so sensitive about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations? What international issues necessitate such talks?

A: For many years, international relations and developments, especially what is going on in the Middle East, have gone far beyond simple interplays between two or more players. Some analysts may think that the issue of Palestine is limited to interactions between two players, for example, actions taken by Hamas and Israel’s reactions, or Egypt’s positions and Iran’s remarks. In reality, however, this issue should be analyzed at a higher level.

I mean, we are now faced with a security continuum. The international system and its components are so interrelated that security of all international players is closely related to one another. Therefore, there cannot be bloodshed and pogrom in one part of the world with other countries still feeling secure. Security of world powers is linked to the situation in the Middle East and vice versa. Therefore, we are faced with a security continuum which encompasses the whole world.

International strategies pursue sustainable and lasting security for the entire world. Therefore, the issue of Middle East and its stability is an international concern. When any small event in the Middle East can leave its mark on international economy or when insecurity in the United States can lead to regime change in the Middle East, this all means that the entire world is now connected in a big network and each country’s problems will affect others. This global network has been strengthened following the recent economic crisis and election of the new American statesmen.

Q: Why they call this the last chance for peace? What regional requirements necessitate negotiations and what issues have convinced both Israelis and Palestinians to opt for peace talks?

A: After attacking the Freedom Flotilla, which carried humanitarian aid to Gaza, Israel has been facing sweeping criticism from all over the world. Perhaps, such an upsurge of international public opinion against Tel Aviv has been unprecedented in contemporary history of the past sixty and odd years. The attack followed by casualties onboard the Turkish ship and reactions shown by Turkey and other countries have faced Israel with an outburst of criticism both among other states and international bodies. This state of affairs has put more pressure on the extremist and conservative Israeli regime which swept to power by chanting slogans in opposition to peace and suspended talks with the Palestinian side. Therefore, Israel needed to reduce international pressure it felt on its shoulders.

On the other hand, establishment of a single Palestinian entity on the Palestinian lands has become more problematic. This process started about 10 years ago and was supposed to lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state sooner or later. Although early steps were taken, internal disputes among Palestinian groups and Israel’s military assaults combined with continued construction of Israeli settlements, as the most important hurdle, practically caused negotiations to grind to a halt. Many Palestinian groups wondered whether to go for armed confrontation with Israel again, or choose diplomacy as a solution to their problem. Seen together, such realities and necessities will lead us to the fact that this is a crucial time when new grounds should be broken with regard to Palestine and Israel. Otherwise, the region may be engulfed by longstanding tension and conflicts.

Q: In an interview on Friday, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton noted that Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran were the main antagonists to peace talks, calling Iran the biggest threat to the Middle East peace process. She said that “the rise of Iranian-backed extremist ideology in the Middle East is a major reason why time is short.” What is your opinion?

A: When countries stand on hostile grounds in international system, they attribute what they dislike to the opposite side. This is even true about ordinary human relations. When two family members are at odds, they blame each other for anything bad which happens. This is one reason behind her allegations. Another reason is that Israel needs excuses to end its isolation and justify its harsh policies. They are trying to show that they are being threatened by other countries and they need to be violent to head off that threat. Naturally, they will do the same with regard to Iran-backed groups or will try to resort to certain statements made in Iran as an excuse.

Active ImageQ: Do you really think that Israel is actually seeking long-term peace with Palestinians or is just trying to improve its standing in international public opinion because of international problems it is facing?

A: The current Israeli Cabinet and political parties which actually control the government do not really believe in peace or establishment of a Palestinian state. Therefore, some analysts maintain that it is very important that they have accepted to go to the negotiating table. However, it is evident that they are not serious about peace and even despite pressures from Washington, they did not stop building new settlements on the Palestinian lands and this is clear indication that they are not honest in their claims about peace.

Now, the question is has Israel been able to achieve its goals? Many analysts maintain that Israel has lost its past influence in international scene and, therefore, cannot achieve its goals. Many analysts maintain that Israel has no choice, but to give in to negotiations. In other words, although Israeli leaders do not seem to be willing to accept peace, they may have to concede to some agreements or give concessions in certain areas.

Q: As US election is approaching, some analysts have opined that Obama’s efforts to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians are aimed at winning the election. They say that the result of negotiations can determine Obama’s fate. What is your opinion?

A: Since the upcoming election is just a congressional event, I don’t think that it will have much weight on the United States’ foreign policy. Experience has proven that economic and other domestic issues are more influential on the results of such elections. Although foreign policy is of high import, it is not a determinant in domestic elections and is most important for presidential polls.

Source: Iranian Diplomacy
Translated By: Iran Review

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