0243 GMT May 27, 2022
By Ebrahim Beheshti
Tensions have risen in Palestine in recent days. After a few martyrdom-seeking operations were carried out in the occupied territories, Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in mid-April and arrested and injured a great number of Palestinians. The events happened while several Arab countries were normalizing their relations with Israel. Therefore, it seems that the normalization of relations has not benefited Palestinians in the slightest. On that, we had an interview with Mehdi Shakibaei, an expert in Middle East affairs. Shakibaei particularly follows the developments related to Israel. He maintains the Zionists know that the continuation of tensions is not in their favor.
What reasons are there for the recent escalation of conflicts in the occupied territories?
Two sets of reasons should be noted, one coming from within Palestine and the other coming from within the Zionist regime.
Exploring the sources found within Palestine, it should be pointed out that following Donald Trump’s statement in which he considered Al-Quds to wholly belong to Israel, the Zionist regime has been directing its attention to the same issue for over a year now. Taking advantage of the situation, it has strived to slowly Judaize the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and finish laying the groundwork for the ultimate goal of total integration of Al-Quds for Jews. This policy provoked and enraged Palestinians not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, the Al-Quds Governorate, and the 1948 occupied territories.
That’s why we are now witnessing the escalation of public protests which reached a peak in May 2021 when the Israelis decided to force the evacuation of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and leave it in the hands of Jews. The resistance of residents, along with protests in support of the resistance forces in the Gaza Strip, culminated in the Saif al-Quds Battle where the Zionist regime suffered a hefty loss in terms of security. Despite achieving a cease-fire agreement, the popular protests continued after the battle. In return, the Zionist regime has sought to continue the Judaization of Al-Quds far from the prying eyes of media to this day. Now, it is pushing for the temporal and spatial division of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Muslims and Jews, just like it did with the Ibrahimi Mosque 20 years ago. This is the first step for Zionists for integrating Al-Quds. These things caused Palestinians to sort of be on high alert, and now that the Israelis have ratcheted up the pressures, the resistance and conflicts have grown within Palestine, too.
On the Zionist side, however, it can be said that the regime has suffered a great security disaster. The resistance groups landed heavy blows to the face of the regime. They passed through every distinct security system and targeted critical points within districts such as Tel Aviv and Haifa and the surrounding areas of the Dimona nuclear facility.
This has shocked the Israelis and forced them to make up for the disgrace in some way. Therefore, while the Israelis were mounting their pressure on the resistance movement in the Gaza Strip and further encircling the West Bank, they turned to normalizing their relations with some Arab countries as well. At last, a meeting was held a few weeks ago in the occupied Naqab (Negev) region attended by the foreign ministers of some Arab countries in order to publicize the matter of normalization, put Palestinians under more political and diplomatic pressures, and encourage more Arab countries to normalize their relations.
At the same time that the meeting was in order, however, a martyrdom-seeking operation was carried out successfully in Tel Aviv, a city that has numerous security layers. The operation as well as other such operations that were launched during those days disgraced and dealt a huge blow to the security of Zionists. To cover up the disgrace, the Zionists fell back on their trusted method of recent decades, arresting and beating the protesters and desecrating the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Bennett’s cabinet came into power with distinctive promises and claims. Have the strategies of this cabinet toward Palestinians had any significant difference from those of the previous Israeli cabinets?
The Israeli cabinets are similar to their US counterparts in that they are not different from their predecessors in principles and strategies. We have been dealing with various Republican and Democratic administrations in the US, and their strategies toward Iran are not essentially different because both parties consider the essence and doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be at odds with their interests. So, they are both trying to inflict damage on Iranians with different methods.
The same goes for the Israeli cabinets and Palestinians. It doesn’t have an effect on Palestinians whether a left-wing cabinet is in office or a right-wing cabinet such as Netanyahu’s. So, the strategies and tactics of Bennett and his cabinet are not different from previous Israeli prime ministers and cabinets. Bennett’s cabinet has directly shot at Palestinian protestors from close range, and so did Netanyahu’s cabinet. There have been wars and killings during Bennett’s time in office, as there were during Netanyahu’s time. Some laws were passed during Bennett’s time that deprived Palestinians of their own houses in Al-Quds, just like during Netanyahu’s time.
These protests and struggles are the most serious of their kind that have happened after the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries. Do you think the so-called Abraham Accords has had any achievements for Palestinians or even Israelis themselves?
Palestinians essentially have no participation in the so-called Abraham Accords to have any achievement. But some Arab countries that stepped into the process of normalizing relations have claimed that through this agreement, they can control the Zionist regime to put the killing of Palestinians aside or give them their rights.
It has been two years since these countries boarded the train of normalization, but nothing positive has happened for Palestinians yet. The Saif al-Quds Battle took place in the middle of this agreement. If these countries were able to control Israel, then they could have prevented that war from breaking out, but they weren’t able to. So, the claims of Arab countries on restraining and controlling the Zionist regime have not been realized as the Judaization of Al-Quds and Sheikh Jarrah has not been halted.
In the meantime, Palestinians are facing more and more problems. Thus, every Palestinian will come to the conclusion that the best approach to determine the fate of Palestinians is the approach whose rein is in their hands, not in the hands of the ruler of another Arab country. Coming out of numerous experiences, they are standing on their own two feet. The martyrdom-seeking operations that were carried out during the past couple of weeks and dealt serious blows to the face of Israelis have sent the same message, “We, Palestinians, will not let an Arab ruler in some other place decide our fate.” So, the normalization of ties has had no achievement for Palestinians, but it relays a certain message to Arab countries: How can a regime that cannot ensure the security of its own capital and important cities ensure the security of Arab countries?
How do you predict these struggles will end? Will they continue or subside on the eve of the International Quds Day?
Considering the fragile state that the Zionist regime is in, I think it will ease the tensions. Moreover, it’s trying to manage the tensions in a way that overshadows the great show of solidarity between Muslim nations and Palestinians on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, which is the Quds Day. But overall, Zionists are aware of the consequences of tension, especially in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Saif al-Quds Battle was an eye-opening lesson for them last year. It will make the officials of the regime understand that any type of tension is to their own detriment and that the more they can reduce tensions, the more they can continue to live.