Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories. She is the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.
The next phase of the violence that has killed nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza is in flux after a ceasefire proposal from Egypt. The Egyptian government proposed a temporary halt to violence and the reopening of Gaza’s border crossings, followed by talks in Cairo on a long-term truce. Israel’s Security Cabinet has endorsed the proposal, but Hamas has yet to officially respond. The Hamas military wing has rejected the pact as a "surrender," saying the ceasefire fails to meet any of its core demands. These include a lifting of the siege of Gaza, the release of prisoners recently detained in Israeli raids, an end to Israeli attacks on the Occupied Territories, and respect for the Palestinian unity government. But it is Hamas’ political wing that will have the final say. Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to widen the attack on Gaza if Hamas rejects the ceasefire and if rocket fire continues. The potential for a ceasefire follows a week that saw Israel kill at least 192 Palestinians in a massive bombing campaign on one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The United Nations estimates more than 80 percent of Gaza’s dead are civilians, including 36 children. More than 1,000 rockets from Gaza have hit Israel over the same period, with just a fraction landing in urban areas. Around a dozen Israelis have been wounded. No casualties have been reported. We are joined from Ramallah by Amira Hass, Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories, the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.
AARON MATÉ: The next phase of the violence that’s killed nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza is in flux today with a ceasefire still on the table. On Tuesday, the Egyptian government proposed a temporary halt to violence and the reopening of Gaza’s border crossings, followed by talks in Cairo on a long-term truce. Israel’s Security Cabinet has endorsed the proposal, but Hamas has yet to officially respond. The Hamas military wing has rejected the pact as a, quote, "surrender," saying the ceasefire fails to meet any of its core demands. These include a lifting of the seige of Gaza, the release of prisoners recently detained in Israeli raids, an end to Israeli attacks on the Occupied Territories, and respect for the Palestinian unity government. But it’s Hamas’s political wing that will have the final say. Earlier today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to widen the attack on Gaza if Hamas rejects the ceasefire and if rocket fire continues.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels, through diplomatic means. But if Hamas does not accept the ceasefire proposal, as would now seem to be the case, Israel would have all international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve the required quiet.
AMY GOODMAN: The threat of more violence follows a week that saw Israel kill at least 192 Palestinians in a massive bombing campaign on one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The United Nations estimates more than 80 percent of Gaza’s dead are civilians, including 36 children. More than a thousand rockets from Gaza have hit Israel over the same period, with just a fraction landing in urban areas. Around a dozen Israelis have been wounded. There have been no Israelis reported killed.
For more, we’re joined by Amira Hass. She’s the Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories, the only Israeli journalist to have spent years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. She is joining us from Ramallah.
Amira Hass, can you talk about this latest development, the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, Israel accepting it, Hamas is weighing it?
AMIRA HASS: Yeah, it’s exactly because Hamas feels that this was a proposal boiled up with Israel without any consultation with Hamas. And this is something that’s forced on them and also reported through the media and not through negotiations or prior negotiations. Everybody knows that the leadership of Egypt right now is an enemy of Hamas, an enemy of the Muslim Brothers. And they feel humiliated, and they feel that it is not meant to bring progress and change for the Palestinians in Gaza, but to further marginalize them as a movement, as a political movement.
AARON MATÉ: Amira, you’ve spoken to members of Hamas. You’ve interview them for Ha’aretz. What demands do they have for a ceasefire that they would respect?
AMIRA HASS: Their demands are, of course, to return first to the 2012 agreement or understanding, that Israel should open the crossings at least for goods and raw material, and then allow people to leave through Rafah. They more or less neglected the idea, I mean, the hope that Israel would allow Palestinians leaving from Erez from the northern west—northern Gaza Strip to the West Bank. This is something they have neglected, but—or don’t have much hope about this. But at least for goods and raw materials and movement, people’s movement through Egypt. This is one.
Another thing that they say: "We see that Israel always does not abide by its commitments, and we need guarantees, international guarantees, that it does, for next ceasefire, because it’s time we find—have some understanding." Israel comes and has breaches—for example, the fishermen. It was agreed in 2012 the fishermen would be able to fish and not be shot at all, whenever they move—I don’t know—one kilometer away, one maritime mile from the shore, as Israel does shoot at them. Things like that, this is one.
Another one, of course, is the release of all the prisoners that had been released in the last two, three years within the Shalit exchange of prisoners, that Israel in the past two months arrested most of them, or many, the great majority of them who are associated with Hamas. And there is a demand to release them again. There is a demand to—yeah, these are the basic demands. There are other prisoners that Israel—Hamas prisoners, Hamas activists in the West Bank, political activists, who have been arrested, and they should also be released.
So these are very, very—as I was told by somebody who is a great Israel—an old opponent of Hamas, he said these demands are very, very reasonable and even minimal. We should even demand more. We should demand more that Israel does not fight, for example, the reconciliation government, that it allows it to function. We should demand that people move, leave the West Bank—leave Gaza Strip and be able to reconnect with the West Bank. So, the demands, the Hamas demands, are quite basic.
AMY GOODMAN: So far, Amira Hass, here in the United States, the coverage of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal is that here is a ceasefire that Israel says it will embrace, it will stop the attack, and Hamas is probably going to reject it. That is the story here in the United States that is being told.
AMIRA HASS: Yeah, unfortunately, just as the story has been told that Israel was attacked and the Palestinians are the aggressor. And, I mean, we know—I don’t remember which channel, but there was this absurd report showing destruction of a Palestinian home that was bombed by Israel, and it was said that this was an Israeli home, Israeli house.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Diane Sawyer’s report on ABC, showing a weeping Palestinian mother in front of her destroyed home—
AMIRA HASS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —and it said Palestinians destroyed this Israeli home.
AMIRA HASS: [inaudible] But so far it seems that the international, or at least the Western, community is not appalled by Israel’s attack, onslaught. And as somebody told me, if this is OK according to international law, then there is something—something stinks with international law. A senior diplomat told me that, who does not succeed in convincing his government to have a clear stand against it.
Now, it’s true that according to international law, Palestinians also—the Palestinian rockets are against international law and also targeting civilians. And they succeeded. They have succeeded, Hamas, in inflicting fear among many, many Israelis, and also in somehow ridiculing the Israeli security establishment, who boasted in the first two days that Hamas has suffered a big blow, a great blow, which it hasn’t, I mean, militarily speaking.
The great gain of Hamas is that it has united—or Israel, actually, has united also the opponents of Hamas who are behind Hamas. The people see the ability of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to launch missiles at Israel, toward Israel, while they are being attacked, and so severely, by such a strong military power, it’s already an achievement. And somebody told me it’s not about killing, it’s about a message, a message that we are not going—that if you expect Palestinians to give up the struggle against the end of occupation, you are mistaken. This is how Palestinians understand the missiles, the launching of missiles. It’s true that there are—also the international media gives a lot of—and also, of course, the Israeli—gives a lot of prominence to demands of Palestinians for revenge. But this is not so much about the revenge as the feeling that one is standing up against Israel. And this is something that the Palestinian Authority has not done. Israel has been really humiliating the Palestinian Authority for so many years, even though the Palestinian Authority has given so many—has had so many concessions and agreed with so many demands of the Israeli government. So people are weighing this, one against the other. And they, even secular, who really detest Hamas’ ideology, feel that right now Hamas represented them in saying, "No, we are not going to give up the struggle against occupation."
AARON MATÉ: Amira, and can you give us a rundown of what you see as Israel’s goals here in this Gaza conflict?
AMIRA HASS: That’s even more difficult. Every fight, Israel did everything possible to foil the very, very weak reconciliation government, which is not a unity government, because Hamas has left it. So, it does over and over what people say mistake, but we think it’s not a mistake. But it has had a policy for the past 20 years to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank. It succeeded in it enormously, and especially when Hamas and Fatah had split and created the two governments of the two territories, Gaza and the West Bank. But now when Palestinians show signs that they understand that this is so much against their struggle, this split between Gaza and the West Bank, a split within the Palestinian movement, and they tried to change it, Israel comes and has to defend its main achievement of the past 20 years, which was this separation between Gaza and the West Bank, because the two-state solution is based on the, not only assumption, but on this principle that Gaza and the West Bank are the Palestinian state alongside Israel. And Israel has done everything possible to foil it, from ’93, ’94—actually, since ’91. So, in essence, this war, again, is in order to protect or to maintain this main achievement of Israeli policy of the past 20 years.
In the past five, six years, both Fatah and Hamas played into the hands of the Israel in that the Hamas government did not think really about reconnecting with the West Bank, and the PA in Ramallah really didn’t care about Gaza and made all kind of mistakes to let it go and create a vacuum there that Hamas, with full right, filled in, especially vacuum in the administration of Gaza. And now they tried to fix it. Because the results were public-demanded, popular demand, mostly in Gaza—I think in the West Bank people do not—it has always been so people in the West Bank feel very far away, detached from Gaza. And we see these days, during the attacks on Gaza, there isn’t mobilization in the West Bank to show the shock that people feel. I’m sure they are, but there isn’t much movement, except of some villages where villagers, young people, young men of also refugee camps, go and clash with the army as a symbol of protest.
But this is the main—this is the main goal. And, of course, the main goal is to maintain the occupation, I mean, to repress any opposition, any resistance. So, the means change. Sometimes it is a mass arrest in the West Bank and then a mass—I mean, intensive colonization of what is left in the West Bank or more construction. And sometimes it is a negotiation process that leads nowhere. And sometimes these are bloody attacks, as we are experiencing now.
AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, we want to thank you for being with us, Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories. She’s the only journalist to have spent—well, she lived for 20 years in Gaza and the West Bank, reporting from there. She was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation. The award was presented by Christiane Amanpour. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we continue our coverage. Stay with us.