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Friday, May 24, 2024

Aftermath of the Israel-Gaza War: Saudi Arabia to Recognize Israel?

GVS Editor Najma Minhas discusses recent developments with Dr. Tamer Qarmout, addressing regional dynamics, international pressures, and the impact on Israel-Arab relations.

What will be the aftermath of the Israel-Gaza situation? To discuss this, GVS Editor Najma Minhas is joined by Dr. Tamer Qarmout, assistant professor in public policy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar.

GVS: What has recently occurred with Iran conducting missile strikes in Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq? How do these events impact the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict?

Dr. Qarmout: It is not a secret that Hamas is affiliated with the Resistance Axis in the Middle East, led by Iran. This axis includes various proxy groups such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, all supporting Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. The recent escalation, starting with the October 7th attack, was initiated independently by Hamas without coordination with other actors in the Resistance Axis. Despite expectations of a broader conflict, only Hezbollah has actively engaged in limited hostilities, emphasizing the demand for an immediate halt to the Gaza war, ending the siege, and initiating political dialogue to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Houthis have also threatened to target the trade route in the Red Sea if attacks on Gaza persist.

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GVS: Given the international pressure on Israel, which has not led to a cessation of hostilities, and Israel’s initial objective of defeating Hamas by the day after the attack, what factors might compel Israel to engage in negotiations or dialogue with the involved parties?

Dr. Qarmout: Israel is facing challenges as its declared goals, such as toppling Hamas and displacing Palestinians from Gaza, have not been achieved. The prolonged conflict, unexpected resilience of Hamas, and international condemnation, including legal actions, are pressuring Israel. The Red Sea escalation and economic impacts further strain Israel’s position. Arab countries resisting displacement projects and Western allies facing public outcry contribute to the complex situation. The ongoing genocidal war in Gaza, broadcasted globally, fuels international pressure, particularly during a critical year with U.S. elections and growing public discontent in the West. Israel and its allies are in a challenging position, considering these factors.

GVS: Do you believe that the recent events have changed the dynamics of the Israel-Arab relationships and the normalization talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

Dr. Qarmout: Yes, it is evident that the recent events, particularly the war in Gaza, have significantly impacted the dynamics of Israel-Arab relationships and the ongoing normalization talks. The October war in Gaza has exposed Israel’s vulnerabilities and raised questions about the effectiveness of the normalization agreements, especially in the context of seeking protection against Iran.

GVS: Could you elaborate on the historical context of Arab attitudes towards normalization with Israel, considering events like the 2002 Arab summit?

Dr. Qarmout: Certainly. The Arab Street has traditionally been unsupportive of normalization deals as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved. The Arab countries, as expressed in the 2002 Arab summit in Beirut, proposed recognizing Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian lands and acknowledgment of Palestinian rights. However, the lack of engagement from Israel, particularly during Prime Minister Sharon’s leadership, and subsequent disregard from the U.S., hindered progress.

GVS: You mentioned that the normalization talks started under the legacy of Obama, focusing on unity against Iran. How has the recent war in Gaza impacted this dynamic?

Dr. Qarmout: The recent war in Gaza has been a game-changer. It revealed Israel’s fragility and exposed it as unable to protect itself effectively. This has led to a shift in perceptions within Arab countries, including those involved in normalization, as they question the efficacy of seeking Israel’s protection against Iran. The ongoing war and Israel’s inability to achieve its goals further complicate the situation.

GVS: Regarding Secretary Blinken’s recent visit and the proposed Jerusalem-Jeddah pact, what are your thoughts on the outlined plan involving aid for Gaza’s reconstruction, a unified government, and limited Israeli influence in Gaza?

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Dr. Qarmout: The Palestinians must decide their future. External plans, including the proposed pact, should respect their autonomy and right to self-determination. Any proposal that does not engage with the reality of ending the Israeli occupation and consulting with the Palestinian leadership, including both Fatah and Hamas, is unlikely to succeed. The focus should be on ending the occupation to pave the way for Palestinian self-governance.

GVS: Could you share your perspective on the proposed plan, given that the Americans seem to have excluded any input from the Palestinians?

Dr. Qarmout: The exclusion of Hamas in this proposal is hypocritical. While Israel is fighting in Gaza, assuming they plan to reoccupy it entirely and impose their will, it essentially amounts to a new form of occupation. For these proposals to be taken seriously, they need to involve both Hamas and Fatah. Instead of engaging with American and Israeli proposals, Arab countries could play a critical role in helping Palestinians reconcile, form a unity government, and then negotiate with the U.S. and Israel on ending the occupation.

GVS: Could you elaborate on what you mean by a unity government and who would be part of it, especially considering the current lack of trust in Mahmoud Abbas?

Dr. Qarmout: The focus should not be on specific personalities like Abbas but on reforming the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO needs to be reformed to include Hamas and other Palestinian parties. Once reformed, the PLO can negotiate on behalf of the majority of Palestinians. External assistance from Arab countries is crucial in achieving this reform and fostering unity among Palestinians.

GVS: Regarding the call for a unity government, do the Palestinians themselves desire such a government, considering the existing divisions, and why should external actors like the Arabs be involved in this internal matter?

Dr. Qarmout: Palestinians do desire a unity government, but previous reconciliation efforts have failed due to international vetoes from the U.S. and Israel. The international community, while advocating for democracy, rejected the outcome of the 2006 elections when Hamas won. The involvement of external actors is necessary to overcome these obstacles and ensure a sustainable peace deal based on Palestinian consensus, recognizing both Hamas and Fatah.

GVS: As someone from Gaza, do you believe the Palestinians genuinely want a unity government, or are they content with separate leaderships in different areas? And why do you think external actors, like Arabs or Americans, should be involved in resolving this internal Palestinian issue?

Dr. Qarmout: Palestinians indeed desire a unified government. However, past reconciliation efforts failed due to international vetoes. External involvement is essential to break this deadlock and pave the way for a peace deal built on Palestinian consensus, recognizing both Hamas and Fatah as legitimate parties. The issue is complex, involving international recognition and engagement, making external assistance crucial for progress.