PIJ Editorial Board Meeting, January 14, 2009
Participants: Simcha Bahiri, Galia Golan, Gershon Baskin, Walid Salem, Ari Rath, Ibrahim Bisharat, Lucy Nusseibah, Danny Rubinstein, Sam'an Khoury, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Anat Cygielman, Abdallah Kiswani, Daniel Bar-Tal, Pierre Klochendler, Najat Hirbawi, Hillel Schenker and Ziad AbuZayyad. Meeting chaired by Galit Hasan-Rokem.
Discussion on the Current Situation
Danny Rubinstein began by posing the question, what will be the future for Gaza? He is preparing a column for Calkalist, Yediot Ahronot's economic daily on “the day after,” to begin discussing solutions such as allowing Gazans to get jobs in Israel.
Gershon Baskin noted that according to the Peace Index poll, 94% of the Israeli public supported the war in Gaza, in the false belief that Israel ended the occupation in Gaza only to be repaid with rocket fire from Gaza. Also noted a distortion in Israeli understanding of what the current situation is in Gaza. This situation is made worse by the self-censorship of the Israeli media and the overall close off of Gaza to international media outlets and journalists. Having talked with senior Hamas officials, he noted that there was an undue arrogance in the organization's view of its ability to determine a ceasefire on Hamas’ terms. Poses question, would Hamas be able to govern the day after? Predicts chaos in Gaza without significant leadership to rebuild or govern Gaza. Without the rebuilding of Gaza, Gershon predicts a three state solution for two peoples with Gaza as a separate entity under Hamas control.
Ziad AbuZayyad noted that Hamas fighters and/or leaders are not the ones paying the price in Gaza. Rather, the brunt of the causalities and suffering has befallen the civilians. Hamas maintains military might and will likely regain control of Gaza after a ceasefire. They will be more empowered to demonstrate their presence as a governing entity in Gaza. However, the reconstruction of Gaza will demand large amounts of funds and cooperation that is beyond the power of Hamas or the PA and will require the involvement of the international community. In response to Gershon, Ziad stated that Palestinians would not accept a separate state in Gaza, as national unity is extremely important to the Palestinian community. Distinctions should be made between Fatah the movement and Fatah the political party. There is currently a disconnection between the two that poses a missed opportunity for offering genuine political leadership for the Palestinian people, leaving many to support Hamas as they find few alternatives.
Galia Golan states that the major mistake of Israel is not recognizing the Mecca Palestinian national unity agreement and the government that emerged from it. Recently the Syrians and Hamas have foiled attempts at reconciliation. Notes that Abu Mazen has been weakened and discredited by the war and poses question, what are the effects of current conflict on the Fatah government?
Hillel Schenker states that before the war he had expected the emergence of a right-wing government lead by Netanyahu. He surmises that after the war, a more center government is likely to emerge after the Israeli elections on February l0th. Anticipates that the war would end on Jan. 19th, just prior to Obama’s inauguration. Obama has stated he would be engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the beginning of his administration and has signaled that he favors a more diplomatic and multilateral approach to the conflicts rather than unilateral and military actions, which offers some hope for the future.
Ibrahim Bisharat states that Israel wants the PA to be an employee, or extension, of the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories. In the days after the war in Gaza, whether Hamas is left standing in power or not, there will be an extension of the PA in Gaza. We must address the underlying causes of the conflict, which has been a refusal of both sides to acknowledge the identity of the other. Final status agreements must be made without ambiguities, as was the case in dialogue prior to the war. We must move from an interest-based approach to the conflict to one that is concerned with the human elements of conflict.
Sam'an Khoury notes that 94% of the Israeli public may support the war, but there is a similar majority on the Palestinian side supporting the response of missile attacks on the Israeli south. Both sides should recognize that war would not bring resolution despite the lack of solutions after 15 years of attempts at the peace process. Both communities should make more concerted efforts to recognize the rights of the other and a shared right to the land.
Walid Salem observes that the war in Gaza begs a revisiting of the issues within peace circles such as occupation. Who occupies whom? How do we face the new difficulties presented by a ceasefire when such an arrangement will not address the issue of occupation? He predicts that occupation will continue in Gaza until a final agreement comes through. Without an agreement, he surmises the following possible options: (1) Fatah in the West Bank would align with Hamas in Gaza, (2) Fatah will rule in West Bank as if nothing has occurred in Gaza, or (3) another intifada will arise to force an agreement. We need more cooperation based on the Arab Peace Initiative and a more comprehensive approach to a resolution of the conflict.
Galit Hasan-Rokem notes that support for the Oslo peace process was significant up until the assassination of Rabin. There is now a necessity to discuss the role of civil society activism in a situation where the political leadership has advocated the taking up of arms and violence. How can we move forward after this war? The population on both sides has long been prepared to move towards peace, it is the leadership of both sides that are unwilling.
Danny Bar-Tal states that Israel is at a point where it would be unwilling to accept anything less than victory, and it is in the Israeli psyche to achieve this through military means. There is a continual construction of history within the Israeli psyche that continues to sow conflict.
Lucy Nusseiba asks whether security come through the use of force. How can anyone not want to act in the face of the suffering and violence in Gaza? Gershon interjects, stating that the Israeli media is not portraying the situation in Gaza to the Israeli public. Lucy responded that civil action is not possible with the continual dehumanization of the other. There needs to be an identification of the suffering of the other. In addition, rebuilding Gaza is not just about infrastructure, but the physical and psychological conditions of a population that has been subjected to chemical warfare and the use of white phosphorus in Gaza.
Ari Rath concurs that the ceasefire and end of war would be reached before Obama’s assumption of office. Notes that Israelis have access to Al Jazeera reporting that circumscribes the restrictions placed on Israeli media and are able to see the events going on in Gaza. The official talks in Cairo with the Hamas delegation are notable because of Israel's absence. In doing so, there has been a de facto legitimization/recognition of Hamas as a political entity that can be engaged at similar levels as the PA in the West Bank. Gershon interjects that most Israelis don't watch Al Jazeera.
Ziad AbuZayyad states that Israel wants Hamas in Gaza so that they can continue to justify the aggressions against Gaza. Gershon notes that he has been in contact with Fatah members and others in the West Bank who do not want the violence to stop in Gaza until Hamas is eliminated. Ziad responds that this is a popular Israeli fabrication but the fact is that the violence has prompted greater support for Hamas amongst Palestinians.
(Ziad has to leave to give a TV interview on the situation).
Minutes Respectfully Submitted by Ivy Shen, Intern, PIJ.