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Palestinian Agreement and Netanyahu’s Contradictions

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hassan Ahmadian, PhD Candidate
Department of Regional Studies, University of Tehran

Four years after withdrawal of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) forces from Gaza Strip and separation of Gaza from the West Bank, Palestinians have managed to forge an agreement in the heat of political developments in the Middle East by agreeing to form a national unity government with Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister. Although selecting Mahmoud Abbas for the post has raised many questions, this article discusses the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on the Palestinian agreement and its underlying reasons. After the agreement was announced between Hamas’ leader, Khaled Mashal, and Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar, Netanyahu said Abbas should choose between peace with Hamas or Israel. He also attacked Hamas by saying that Hamas is trying to destroy Israel. After reading his remarks, I wondered what did Netanyahu actually mean by peace? Secondly, what is the relationship between that peace and the Palestinian agreement?

Since Israel’s Likud party, led by Netanyahu, swept to power, on-and-off negotiations between PA and Israelis have come to a halt. However, every time that a new initiative is offered by the Palestinians to promote peace or put more international pressure on Israel, such as Abbas’ initiative to make Palestine a member of the United Nations, Netanyahu and his radical foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, issue warnings about the hypothetical danger to the peace process. A glance at the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in the past decade will prove that nothing has practically remained from the peace process, and what has been done in the same decade is international or regional efforts aimed at reviving the process, not to keep it alive. If by peace, Netanyahu is alluding to Norway Accord, that process has actually died since 1996 after he came to power, and there is no way to restore it. In a meeting with family of an Israeli soldier killed in action in 2000, whose tape record was published last year, Netanyahu clearly said he was proud of his role in undermining the Oslo process.

Even worse, he talked about how he had deceived “American dupes” before explaining about his own motives. He is basically anti-peace and a true graduate of the pristine Israeli school of thought. However, he keeps talking about peace. Interestingly, he only starts thinking about peace when he tries to justify his own irresponsible behavior in continuing to build Jewish settlements and devouring occupied Palestinian lands or when he wants to criticize the Palestinian Authority.

Another point is that since Obama has been putting pressure on Netanyahu to stop building settlements as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks, he has responded by continuously asking with whom Israel is supposed to negotiate. He has frequently asked: “Who is representing Palestinians?” In fact, he uses this pretext in the best way to justify his irresponsible behavior in undermining any effort aimed at reviving the peace process. Obviously, for Netanyahu and his radical friends, peace is just a propaganda tool which is also used from time to time to attract the attention of or deceive the Western audience. From the viewpoint of radical figures of Jewish parties in coalition with Netanyahu, like Shas and Israel Is Our Home, peace means nothing but to reach a compromise with the Arabs to give up the historical land of Israel. Therefore, some of them even avoid of using peace as a propaganda tool, so as to avoid being charged in their constituencies with having forgotten about their pre-election promises.

Allegations about Hamas trying to destroy Israel are merely for propaganda purposes. When Obama was elected US president, Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, said in an interview that Hamas was ready to announce long-term crease-fire with Israel. His remarks stood in stark contrast with Israel’s propaganda and, therefore, were totally ignored by radical politicians in Netanyahu’s government, though there is no doubt that those remarks had caught their attention. The main point which is slurred over by Netanyahu is how and by means of what weapons, Hamas will be able to destroy Israel? After having laid a siege on Gaza for four years and imposing a destructive war on its people, it is clear that Israel stops at nothing less than total annihilation of Hamas. The evident paradox in Netanyahu’s arguments is that he expects Hamas to recognize Israel while political parties making up his government are by no means ready to recognize Palestinian’s right to independence. The question, therefore, is why agreement between Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas is against peace, but Netanyahu’s alliance with Shas or Israel Is Our Home should be considered peaceful? Moreover, establishment of “Jewish government” is now the main goal that Israelis are seeking through negotiations. In other words, the Palestinian Authority, which entered political processes in Madrid and Oslo with official recognition of Israel as precondition, has now to ignore the rights of Palestinians who lost their lands before 1948, as well as the rights of the Palestinian refugees in order to bring that process back to life. Under such circumstances, how Netanyahu expects Hamas to re-experience what Fatah has already gone through? Netanyahu is well aware of the contradiction in his argument and is using Hamas just as an excuse for propaganda purposes.

The agreement between Palestinian groups is beneficial for Palestine and, on the contrary of Netanyahu’s belief, will not be detrimental as forcing Abbas to choose between agreement and peace is to force him to choose between agreement and “nothing.” Netanyahu is the first party to come to loss by that agreement. On the one hand, after the agreement, Palestinians will have more bargaining power to press their own specific preconditions for negotiations with Israel. On the other hand, talking about “agreement or peace” will refute Netanyahu’s claims in the past two years that Israel has no negotiating counterpart to be truly representing Palestinians. This will further unveil the contradiction which is embedded in Netanyahu’s remarks and those of other political figures which make up his coalition government.

In addition, the agreement has taken place under conditions when popular uprisings are sweeping through the Arab countries and is a sign of solidarity with those uprisings, which have already posed serious security threats to Israel. Even participants in the annual Herzliya Conference have admitted to this fact. On the opposite, changes in Israel’s security environment will be totally beneficial to Palestinians and their agreement. Such changes not only make Israel’s security conditions more fragile, but also make continuation of Netanyahu’s policy to buy time and expand Jewish settlements more difficult. Political developments in the past year have shown that time is running against Israel. As a result, the agreement will maximize the possibility of meeting Palestinians’ interests under new conditions of the Middle East while, on the other hand, making the situation more difficult for Israel.

More By Hassan Ahmadian:

*Evolution of Saudi Strategy: Change for Change: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Evolution_of_Saudi_Strategy_Change_for_Change.htm

*Yemen’s Transition from Saleh: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Yemen’s_Transition_from_Saleh.htm

*Iran and Turkey-Egypt Regional Rivalries: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran_and_Turkey_Egypt_Regional_Rivalries.htm

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