‘Israel needs divided and weakened Palestinians’
RT:The Israeli Prime Minister has condemned the Palestinian reconciliation deal, saying that Fatah has to choose between peace talks with Israel or peace with Hamas. Do you think a resolution is possible?
James Petras: Netanyahu’s statement is farcical because Israel has played off Hamas against the leadership in the West Bank and through “divide and conquer” has expanded its settlements in the West Bank. The unity of Gaza and the West Bank government will strengthen any peace process by giving the Palestinians greater leverage. The fact of the matter is that up to now Netanyahu has made no positive moves to cease the settlements, the land grabs and to stop the military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza. The move by the Palestinians is certainly a very positive move, it lessens tension within the Palestinian community, and I think the Israeli government is very disturbed by this unity and is seeking to use the so-called peace process to divide them once again, weaken interlocutors on the West Bank and continue the land grabs. The peace process according to Netanyahu is essentially to negotiate with the divided and weaken Palestinians in order to continue its ethnic cleansing in the West Bank.
RT:Israel reportedly carried out an air strike on Gaza soon after the deal was announced. Can we expect tensions to escalate in the region because of the deal?
JP: The deal isn’t a source of the tensions. The tensions are precisely because Israel has not respected the frontiers and the territories in which the Palestinians govern. These arbitrary violent incursions by Israel are really creating the tension and certainly the rejection of Israel of a joint negotiating team of the Palestinians is likely to precipitate greater conflict.
RT:The US State Department has called the deal “disappointing.” But why would the US and Israel oppose what Palestinian people see as a reconciliation and a matter of internal affairs?
JP: Unfortunately the US has not been acting as an honest broker. From the very beginning of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, the US has been very much engaged with the Israelis, supplying them with $3 billion, essentially and military aid and providing them with diplomatic coverage for all of their human rights offenses. The fact that the Palestinians are united and the fact that the Palestinians will go with the common agenda will strengthen their position in negotiations. Washington’s partisanship with Israel will be ineffective in this light, it will not be able to buy off Abbas and turn him against the leadership in Gaza. I think Washington has lost a client in the Palestinian movement and that they will be moaning this and also commiserating with the Israelis on the fact that they do not have a complacent interlocutor.
RT:Hamas and Fatah have brokered similar deals in the past, but failed to keep them. What are the chances this time they will implement the agreements?
JP: There are no guarantees; they have been falling out in the past. It seems to me that the fact that Abbas hasn’t been able to secure any concessions and support from Washington and the Israelis continued to swallow up land in the West Bank, he’s finally recognized that cuddling up to Israel was not going to get him anywhere. The logical turn to the unity with leadership in Gaza is a result of the failure of his efforts to conciliate the Israeli sacrifice the Palestinians in Gaza. The policy of conciliation has not worked and the reconciliation with the Palestinian community throughout the region is the next logical step.
The US policy towards Israel is very biased. It is largely influenced through the pro-Israel lobby in the US which can command three-quarters of the [members of] Congress and has significant direct representation in the executive branch. This has prejudiced the US role as an honest broker in these negotiations. So I’m not surprised that Washington is disappointed because their Israeli ally is not in such a strong position as it has been.
RT:Do you believe that the deal actually puts the two-state solution off even further?
JP: Israel has never believed that there is a two-state or one-state solution. They believe in one Jewish state and the marginalization of whoever doesn’t qualify as an Israeli Jew. It’s a policy of ethnic cleansing, it’s a question of dispossession of the Palestinians. I think the facts on the ground speak for themselves. Whatever the Israelis say, the fact of the matter is that they have not ceased to seize Palestinian land in the West Bank particularly since 1969, over the past year over 20,000 Israeli settlers have seized more Palestinian land and projections are for another 10,000 in the coming month. The fact of the matter is that it’s a question of survival today for the Palestinians, whether they will have any land to work with and to form a new state. The Israelis are in a big push and the formation of the government in Israel – Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu – represents the most extreme right-wing government in the history of Israel and their intention is not to co-exist with the Palestinians but to expel them completely out of what they call Greater Israel.
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