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After Gaza

Interview with Michael Warschawski

Tuesday 10 February 2009

What are the larger implications of the current ceasefire between Gaza and Israel and why do you think it happened right now?

The timing of the cease-fire agreement has two reasons. One, a cease-fire was necessary for Israel because there was a fear that what could be seen as a successful operation could, in one single incident, change into a political defeat. Like what happened in the past with the Qana massacre, or Sabra and Shatilla. One lesson the Israeli rulers have drawn from past experiences is to know when to stop, and not let the military dynamics override the risk of being branded as an "operation that didn’t end on time."

Two, it was also important to stop before Obama entered the White House, in order avoid starting the new US-Israel relations with pressures to stop the aggression.

Will this ceasefire result in any meaningful change, or is it another way to remain silent on the Palestinian issue?

The cease fire is for the time being, no more than a stop to the killings in Gaza. This is through an indirect agreement with Hamas, which will stop firing rockets into Israeli territory. It doesn’t resolve anything as long as the siege on Gaza continues. The siege itself – from the point of view of international law – is an act of war: to have a real truce first requires an opening of the Gaza passages, including a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

What is the role of the EU in this ceasefire?

The cease-fire was a unilateral decision of the Israeli government, and the international community didn’t have any substantial role in this step, maintaining and limiting its role to the humanitarian field.

Do you think that President Obama will change American policy in the Middle East?

The Israeli-US alliance is a strategic one, with full bi-partisan support, and is unchallenged by any US leader. However, there are three different perspectives in Washington: a) full support to Israeli aggressive policy, and even pushing Israel to be more aggressive – this was the neo-conservative attitude; b) let Israel do whatever it wants, without interfering too much; c) trying to impose a kind of Pax Americana, by friendly pressures on Israel (Kissinger and Carter policy). Obama has a global agenda that includes an end to the neo-conservative global permanent preemptive war, and to replace it with a more diplomatic and multi-lateral strategy that may contradict, at one point or another, tensions with the Israeli government. This is true especially if Netanyahu – one of the main ideologist of the neo-conservative offensive strategy – is the next Israeli Prime Minister.

Was this war an "electoral war?” How did it affect the Israeli public opinion?

The next elections were not the main reason for the murderous aggression on Gaza, but there is no doubt that both Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni considered that it may help them for the coming elections. As expected, it was a miscalculation: brutal discourse and brutal policies always strengthen the far right – Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.

In Palestinian society, what is your analysis of the political and the "civil society" reaction to the Gaza attacks?

The reaction of Mahmoud Abass and the PA establishment was an outrage: they didn’t do anything to try and protect their own people in Gaza, and made Israelis feel that they support it, hoping that a blow to Gaza will hasten the end of the Hamas elected government and bring back the Mahmoud Abass gang to Gaza. In reality, Hamas has strengthened its popularity, including in the West Bank, while Abass has become totally irrelevant. As for the population of the West Bank, while feeling anger and sadness for the fate of their brothers and sisters in Gaza, they didn’t open a second front to ease the pressures on Gaza, and even solidarity demonstrations were quite limited.

Will Israel ever face an International Court for committing war crimes?

We all hope for such an international tribunal to be constituted and we are taking part in the international campaign on that issue. Though it will not happen in the near future, I am quite sure that one day Israeli leaders will have to answer accusations of war crimes.

How does Israel succeed in presenting itself as "the democratic state of the Middle East?"

By being a "western country" against Muslims: in the western world, to be Western means always to be democratic and civilized, and to be Muslim (or Arab) always means to be a barbarian. The image of Israel as a democratic state is built-in the “clash of civilizations” ideology.

When you speak about "peace" and "the peace process" what do you mean? Is peace possible?

When THEY speak about peace, they mean pacification, i.e. an end of resistance, the end of the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. When WE speak of peace, it means the fulfillment of the legitimate human and national rights of the Palestinians. Peace will be possible only when the Israeli people understand that the sole way to guarantee a future is by ending colonial behavior and accepting the legitimacy of the indigenous Palestinian population on its homeland.

Is peace possible? After Gaza, I doubt that there is still one single Arab who believes that Israel fits in this area and is ready to end its brutal relationship to the peoples of the Middle East.

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