'Wars with Israel for the Arab countries ended in 1973'

Who is to blame for the escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, what will happen next, and why Russia is staying away

'Wars with Israel for the Arab countries ended in 1973'
Photo: bbc.com

The military escalation continued in the area of the Palestinian territories and Israel for all week — for the first time since 2014, dozens of people have been killed on both sides: the Hamas movement and the Israeli army have been exchanging rockets for several days. Aleksey Malashenko, a well-known political expert, specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, Doctor of Historical Sciences, discusses in the interview with Realnoe Vremya how soon we can expect a cessation of hostilities and who can take on the role of a peacemaker in the current situation.

“Could Netanyahu order such an action or push the local authorities to it?"

Doctor Malashenko, what do you think are the reasons for the serious aggravation of the situation? The eviction of Arab families? Violent clashes between police and Palestinians due to this eviction?

The reasons are completely incomprehensible to me, but one thing is obvious — today, what is happening in this area on such a scale is not profitable for either Israel or the Palestinians. There will be no winners in such story — there will only be losers, at the end of this day, all this will only lead to a constant increase in tension. Neither the Israeli leadership nor the Palestinians are interested in this — after all, apart from Hamas, there are people with different positions in the Palestinian territories.

Yes, of course, there is a confrontation in these parts, and we periodically see rocket launches from the Gaza Strip and something else like that, but there hasn't been such acuteness for a long time.

In my opinion, something quite unexpected has definitely happened. A local decision was made — the decision of the local authorities of Jerusalem to relocate a number of Arab families in the area of the Temple Mount. And I suspect that this decision was not authorised by either Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Israeli government, which is now, in fact, not there. Simply put, it was a self-initiated activity.

Do not forget: in addition to the fact that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located on the Temple Mount, not everyone is allowed to enter this territory in the holy month of Ramadan for the Muslims, and then suddenly, in various points around the Temple Mount, the resettlement of Arab families began. Couldn't they wait? Could Netanyahu order such an action or push the local authorities to it?

It just happened so quickly that no one can give up their positions — neither Israel nor Hamas. I think Netanyahu would be happy to contain all this, but how? He has recently had difficult elections, the radicals are very strong in Israel, and in the Palestinian territories, there is a category of people who just expected such an outbreak. Therefore, the situation there is uneasy, caused by an accident. I think that in a few months, we will learn that a local official gave the very order to evict the families of the Arabs. We find out that he either did not realise what this might lead to, or acted rashly...

One of your fellow orientalists said that the reason for the escalation of the conflict could be the decision of the Israeli authorities to ban Arabs living in Israel from voting in the upcoming elections for the head of the Palestinian autonomy.

I certainly agree with this version — this is also one of the reasons for the riots, but only one of them. Still, it is worth paying attention to the place and time where everything came from — the Temple Mount, the holy month of Ramadan. What a dimwit made the decision to evict the families at this time? At another time, these families could somehow be evicted, but they acted rashly. What do they do now?

Photo: dw.com
To date, what is happening in this area on such a scale isdisadvantageous for either Israel or the Palestinians. There will be no winners in such story — there will only be losers, at the end of this day, all this will only lead to a constant increase in tension

“Antisemitism is put on a par with Russophobia in our country”

We have so far heard about the proposal of the same Turkey to Russia to bring peacekeepers to the Palestinian territories with the support of the UN. What is it? The PR of the Turkish side or serious faith in Russia and its ability to stop the great bloodshed?

I would look at this situation more widely. We often pronounce the terms “Middle East conflict”, “Arab-Israeli conflict”… But now there is only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Neither Jordan, nor Egypt, nor Lebanon, nor Saudi Arabia need it — none of the Arabs will fight with Israel, because the wars with Israel for the Arab countries ended in 1973.

Now Israel has good relations with the states of the Persian Gulf, first of all, with Saudi Arabia. Egypt is not interested in the conflict, and Jordan is not as close to the Palestinians as it used to be, because it has its own problems. Therefore, we do not have a conflict that would have an impact on the international situation — this is a purely local conflict, which is not decisive, as previously — for the relations of the USSR and the United States.

How should Russia act now? It's unclear. So far, we see a great deal of caution in our movements — Russia is not condemning anyone. And if antisemitism is put on a par with Russophobia in our country, then Russia will not support actions against Israel. But at the same time, Russia also cannot refuse to support some of the Arabs — one of the representatives of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, who now often makes statements on the situation in the region, he if does not go to Moscow as to his home but still often visits the Russian capital. All this means that Russia is for peace in this region. But this also means that it is not clear what to do next. For example, everything is clear with the United States: they say that they support Israel, but this conflict is clearly not convenient for them, because the United States has good relations with both the Saudis and Egypt.

To what extent is bringing the peacekeeping troops a sound idea and to what extent is it realistic?

I think that in the conflict zone, not peacekeepers, but negotiators may appear in the near future. I do not see a country that could be a peacemaker in such a conflict — it will continue there for a long time.

But it is necessary to stop the shelling, and this is understood by both Hamas (this force will not be able to “maintain reputation” forever), and Netanyahu and Israeli politicians. Who, by the way, need to somehow carefully conduct a policy in East Jerusalem, so that no more rockets from the Gaza Strip will fly to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem because of some ridiculous order.

Photo: salamnews.org
One of the representatives of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, who now often makes statements on the situation in the region, if he does not go to Moscow as to his home, but still often visits the Russian capital

“It is almost impossible to control the same Hamas”

Can, for example, Saudi Arabia or Egypt somehow control Hamas in the future?

These countries can restrain the Palestinians, but it is almost impossible to control the same Hamas. There will always be extremists and radicals. It is believed that Hamas is the fruit of almost Israeli intelligence, but nevertheless this “office” is supported by a part of the radical and extremist population, for whom Hamas is always heroism. Therefore, this movement will be present in the Palestinian territories for a long time. But again, Moscow somehow contacts it and tries, if not to calm down, but to warn about certain consequences, which is quite useful.

But can Moscow play a key role in resolving the current situation? On Friday, Vladimir Putin said that he was concerned about the events in the Middle East, because the picture is unfolding near the Russian borders.

Moscow can certainly play a role — although some countries consider Hamas terrorists and extremists, negotiations with them are inevitable and necessary. That is why Moscow is making some moves towards the Palestinians. Although Hamas is now launching rockets at Israel, it is still part of the politics of this region, so its representatives go to Moscow. And it's still better than nothing.

But Putin has sent peacekeepers to, for example, Karabakh. Is there no possibility of a similar action for Israel?

It is unlikely that the Russian society will be happy about this — we have already had enough of Afghanistan and Syria. You'd have to be a complete idiot to do that.

Photo: kremlin.ru
Although some countries consider Hamas terrorists and extremists, negotiations with them are inevitable and necessary. That is why Moscow is making some moves towards the Palestinians

“The parties will agree sooner or later”

Can Moscow's rather alienated policy be explained by that it is impossible to act in this region without the involvement of the United States?

Certainly. Yes, American Jews are somewhat tired of Israel, but they will support it for a number of reasons — this has been the case since the 1940s.

Can the European powers participate in establishing peace now? After all, it is unlikely that Israel will be satisfied with Turkey in this role, especially against the background of Erdogan's statements that Israel has crossed all borders with its actions.

Europe — no: this conflict does not play a role for them, and even Syria is not the main thing for them. But Libya plays a role for them — it is closer, there are migrants and so on.

Is the establishment of own state still important for the majority of Palestinians?

For some of them, this is a matter of principle, but for others, it is not. But it is very difficult to imagine what the relations between the two parts of the new state will be.

The Gaza Strip is one territory where much is ruled by Hamas, and East Jerusalem and the West Bank are another. And there is no simple solution. There will still be claims against Israel. And there will be Israel's claims — in particular, concerning Jerusalem.

By Sergey Kochnev