For Israeli officials who disagree with the meetings between Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the latter’s remarks during a press conference in Germany provided an opportunity to showcase their opposition. Abbas later retracted his statement about Israel committing 50 holocausts against the Palestinians and thus strengthened the Israeli manipulation of the Holocaust narrative even further. It would have been better if he had turned to the Palestinian Nakba narratives to make a point about the ongoing Zionist colonial violence in occupied Palestine against the Palestinians.
However, Gantz’s justification is of more concern than Abbas’s statements and the momentary flurry of faux outrage that his words prompted. Keeping in mind that Israel is embarking upon coercion to attempt to convince the PA to abide by the 2020 Abraham Accords, Gantz is exploiting rhetoric of “war” and economic prosperity to keep detractors at bay. Neither signifies anything good for the Palestinians.
“It’s best if those who aren’t responsible for sending soldiers to battle and aren’t responsible for the lives of citizens of Israel and the soldiers in the IDF [Israel “Defence” Forces], don’t lecture me about meetings that prevented and are preventing the next war, and are bringing stability out in the field and freedom and diplomatic freedom,” Gantz declared.
There was, of course, no war in Gaza recently. Israel instigated a military offensive against a largely civilian population. It was an act of aggression which Prime Minister Yair Lapid confirmed later was intended to act as a warning to the Palestinians in the besieged enclave. His message was simple: Subjugate yourselves to our demands, or face annihilation. Economic prosperity, which has kept the occupied West Bank under the PA’s authoritarian violence, is what Israel wants for Gaza.
This is nothing new. Prior to the Abraham Accords, various diplomats and UN officials had expressed how much easier it is to negotiate with the PA and speculated about aid being used as an incentive to take the PA’s influence into Gaza. While former US President Donald Trump’s parting legacy may be the driving force behind his successor Joe Biden’s pro-Israel policy, the normalisation agreements have decades of subtle influences which all contribute to the current scenario. Normalising the PA, despite its violence, is one tactic which the international community has used routinely.
Gantz also attempted to deploy the humanitarian paradigm in his statements. “I hope to continue and conduct diplomacy responsibly in the area, specifically with the Palestinians, for Israel’s safety and not out of political consideration.”
Every time that Israel or the UN attempts a political manoeuvre with the Palestinians, both are quick to point out that political considerations are not a driving force. However, forcing Palestinians into a humanitarian predicament is a political choice made by Israel and its international allies, as was Lapid’s decision to initiate another brutal offensive against Gaza in the name of economic prosperity.
While Israeli politicians may argue about Gantz’s decision to continue meeting with Abbas based upon the recent statements, it is the former army chief of staff who holds enough sway to influence the PA towards Israel’s demands. There is no contradiction between Gantz and Lapid’s intentions. The PA’s existence is subject to international financial donors; if that fact is taken as groundwork by Israel, then the Palestinians are being set up for a much bigger and possibly irreversible loss of land and liberty.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.