Shlomo Ben Ami: “The infamy of Hamas will remain for many years like a wall between Israelis and Palestinians” | International

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At 80 years old, Shlomo Ben Ami is as indignant as a twenty-something when he points out the arrogance of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a trigger for the cycle of revenge and violence between Israelis and Palestinians that his country is now experiencing. “It had not been seen since 1948,” laments this historian, trained at the University of Oxford, with a classic Greek simile, who was the first ambassador of his country in Spain and the last Minister of Foreign Affairs of a Labor-based Government before that the Second Intifada (2000-2005) ruined the hopes of the Oslo Accords.

“Over the years, Netanyahu has ignored Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority with the strategy of strengthening Hamas as the best way to eliminate the two-state solution, given the existence of a radical and fanatical group in the strip. from Gaza,” he argues. “But the Islamic movement had given us a strategic surprise, by not participating in the Islamic Jihad offensives against Israel in recent years,” Ben Ami says. “And also a tactical surprise, by now entering Israel through the traditional fence, instead of through tunnels under the underground barrier.” The defensive system was built last decade at a cost of more than 950 million euros under the Netanyahu governments. “There has not been a serious military deployment on the border (of the Palestinian enclave),” he emphasizes.

Former vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace, born in the international zone of Tangier during the era of the French and Spanish protectorates over Morocco, Ben Ami speaks by phone in fluent Spanish from his home in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. He believes that the conservative prime minister's policy in Gaza completely lacks a solid basis.

“Wars have a political objective. For Hamas, it is about stopping the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, emptying Israeli prisons of Palestinian prisoners, through the exchange of Jewish hostages, and seizing political hegemony in Palestine, in the heat of the Jerusalem cause. and the icon of the Al Aqsa mosque,” ​​he says. “Netanyahu is just reacting; “He does not have a political objective, especially after having not stopped provoking the Palestinians for years,” he adds.

Ben Ami maintains that the conservative leader put aside the idea of ​​a two-state solution a long time ago to limit himself to managing the occupation, considering that there were no conditions to sit down and negotiate. “But he has failed, as he has intensified the occupation, making it irreversible by expanding settlements and tolerating settler violence,” he details.

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unprecedented barbarism

The historian and politician considers that “Hamas has been able to create a set of understandable and logical objectives in its strategy in Gaza, but its final tactic has been barbaric as has not been seen in decades. "Cold-blooded murders, kidnappings, rapes... An infamy that will remain for many years like a wall between Israelis and Palestinians." An issue that will end up taking away arguments from Israelis who believe in reconciliation. And forcing many others to support Netanyahu in this war: “It is one of the greatest crimes that Hamas has committed against what remains of the camp of peace supporters in Israel.”

In his opinion, the Israeli army has become a law enforcement force in the West Bank that constantly protects settler groups that instigate violence. “The weakness of the Palestinian Authority, brought about by Israel, has brought the focus of Israel's military deployments to the West Bank,” he says. On the other hand, he thinks that security around the Gaza Strip has not been given due attention.

He also warns that the Palestinian population in general lives under a feeling of frustration and anger at the practices of the Israeli occupation. “It cannot be denied. For the occupying force and its civilians to be humiliated in such a way as has happened now, I don't think it will generate rejection among the Palestinian population."

From his life experience, Ben Ami observes that, however, time passes and the wounds, no matter how deep they are, begin to heal. “If there are ever leaders with vision, what has happened now in and around Gaza should not be an obstacle to a future agreement. Between Germany and France there has been much more blood throughout history than between Israelis and Palestinians,” he says. “But we have plenty of propagandists like Netanyahu, and murderers like those in the Hamas military leadership. With them we can hardly think of a vision of the future. “We lack leaders.”

For all its shortcomings, it relies on Israeli democracy to correct the flaws. “Now there is a type of Government with people who live on another planet, who do not work, who do not share the effort of military service,” he alludes to the presence of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the most right-wing Cabinet in the history of Israel.

—Is the failure of the Jewish State's intelligence services due to the fact that the security forces have concentrated more on the West Bank than on Gaza?

—Before the Yom Kippur War (1973) there was no lack of intelligence in the ministers' meetings, but despite having information, it was interpreted under the strategic concept that the Arab countries had no military option against Israel. Something similar could have happened with Netanyahu's decision to turn towards the West Bank, where he perceived a very active Palestinian resistance, and relegate intelligence on Gaza. Hamas was apparently tamed, focused on economic development and receiving money from Qatar in the light of day.

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