Interview published by Muslim Press on 18/12/2016
In an interview with Muslim Press, British Palestinian academic and writer on Middle East Affairs Kamel Hawwash said, “Netanyahu wanted to send a message to Iran to end its hostility to Israel hinting that any attack would be costly and that Israel is a ‘tiger not a rabbit’.”
Read the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: Benjamin Netanyahu became the first incumbent Israeli prime minister to visit Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. What’s the significance of these visits for Israel?
Kamel Hawwash: Israel has been concerned about its increasing isolation around the world as activists develop the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to pressure it to end its criminal and illegal practices. Although its relations with most Western governments remain strong, ordinary people are lobbying their governments to in turn pressure it to operate in accordance with International Law rather than above it. The BDS movement is strong in Europe and worried about losing trade with the EU, Israel has decided to develop new markets both in Africa and Central Asia in particular, hence Netanyahu’s visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. However, it is also a move by Netanyahu to send a message to Arab and Muslim countries that it is possible to be supportive of the Palestinians but to normalize ties with it. This is something all but Jordan and Egypt have resisted and have instated joined efforts to bring the Arab peace plan into effect, something Israel rejects. More specifically, Netanyahu wanted to send a message to Iran to end its hostility to Israel hinting that any attack would be costly and that Israel is a ‘tiger not a rabbit’.
MP: Do you think he is trying to forge closer ties to the region?
Kamel Hawwash: Yes, this is a deliberate policy to expand Israel’s trade links in case the BDS movement succeeds in further isolating Israel particularly targeting goods form its illegal settlements.
MP: Could his efforts end the regime’s isolation?
Kamel Hawwash: Israel feels emboldened by President-elect Trump’s win and believes that he will support its policies including illegal settlement building and will in turn pressure other countries to change their relationships with Israel thus reducing its isolation. However, its continued colonization and oppression of the Palestinians will ensure its existing isolation will continue until it comes to its senses.
MP: With a few exceptions – Egypt, Jordan and central Asia republics – Muslim nations neither have diplomatic relations nor any other official encounters with Israel. Do you think those countries that develop ties with Israel are betraying the Palestinian cause.
Kamel Hawwash: Israel claims that it has good ‘developing relations’ with some countries in the Arab world, particularly as it plays on their fears from what some see as Iran’s interface in the Arab countries, particularly Syria, Iraq and Yemen. These developing relations do not seem to be flourishing particularly since the nuclear agreement was signed with Iran, reducing the fears of many of these countries. There is no doubt that the current turmoil in the Arab world has placed issues like Syria in the spotlight, relegating the Palestinian cause somewhat to a lower prominence. Palestinians though continue to rely on political and financial support from the Arab world and therefore have to act carefully taking the region’s status into account. It is probably in Gaza where the Palestinians would go furthest in expressing their frustration with the Arab world but that is due to the siege they have been under for almost 10 years which the Arabs have failed to end.