A UN special Rapporteur tells Press TV that by waging the current deadly war on Gaza the Zionist regime of Israel is trying to divert attention from its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.
At least 96 Palestinians, including many women and children, have been killed in the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since November 14. More than 700 people have also been injured, with some of the wounded in critical condition.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Richard Falk, special Rapporteur of the United Nations to shed more light on the issue at hand. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: First of all I would like to get your initial reaction as to the timing and objectives of this military strike on the Gaza Strip. Much has been said and discussed about this, what is your opinion?
Falk: Of course it is difficult to have a solidly evidenced opinion because the stated objectives are probably not the real objectives. The stated objectives being Israel’s claim that it is defending itself and promoting the security of its nation.
It seems that similar to the attack on Gaza at the end of 2008 entering into 2009 that this occurs at a time just after the American presidential elections and prior to the Israeli internal election, so that there is something connected with the political situation both in relation to the US and in relation to the internal politics of Israel.
It is probably also the case that as earlier Israel is eager to use Gaza to deflect attention away from their greater interest in further annexing the West Bank and cleansing to the extend possible Palestinians from Jerusalem and finally I think there is the intention to convey to Iran and to others in the region that Israel will respond to any threat that it perceives with disproportionate and unrestricted force and it will always enjoy the unconditional backing of the United States.
Press TV: Mr. Falk you have spoken about how this also has to do with drawing away attention from the further annexing of the West Bank as well as this demographic change that we are seeing taking place. Would you care to elaborate a bit more on that?
Falk: Well it is really a way of talking, in relation to the West Bank, about the continued and accelerated expansion of Israeli settlement that now is estimated to be as many as 600,000 Israeli settlers in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and that makes the expected Palestinian state, occupying the territory that was taken in 1967, more and more with remote from political reality and this is really further highlighted by the degree to which Israel is in the process of legalizing the hundred outposts that had been unlawfully, even under Israeli law, and are scattered throughout the West Bank, and that is a final signal that there is no prospect to have a viable Palestinian state emerging from diplomacy and this makes the continued call for direct negotiations between the Palestinian authority and Israel, very misleading and creates a kind of false expectation that it is still possible to create a negotiated solution.
Press TV: Right. Now you spoke of the role of the statehood bid of Palestine, let me just elaborate a little more on that before I get back to the timing of the imminent military ground incursion of Gaza.
The role of the statehood has been highlighted throughout the course of this year specifically Israel though continues to violate international law with regards to Palestinians, with regards to the territory, with regards to the Oslo accord, etc. etc.
Now if Palestine were to get statehood recognition in the UN, would it really matter to Israel considering it has been going on with impunity as far as violating international law? Would not it just continue so far as a statehood is concerned as well?
Falk: It is a complicated issue I think. Symbolically it would be important as a kind of recognition by the international community that the Palestinian people are entitled to be treated as a state that they already have diplomatic relations with a lot of countries and there is no acceptable reason for denying them statehood and this seems to trouble Israel greatly, they are using as much diplomatic leverage as they possess to warn the Palestinian authorities that if they to go ahead with this initiative, they will suffer grave consequences in relation to financial support and possibly in relation to their capacity to represent the people of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
So there is something that seems important to Tel Aviv about defeating this Palestinian initiative, that does not necessarily make it a good thing, because I do think it would reinforce this illusion that the conditions on the ground allow real satisfaction of the Palestinian right of self-determination and as I have been trying to suggest what has been happening with the expansion of the settlements and legalizing of the outpost is to make this outcome of a viable independent Palestinian state along the 67 borders just about impossible to achieve through diplomacy.
Press TV: Indeed but ever since Operation Column of Defense [Pillar of Defense] has been launched, we have seen on the part of the Palestinian authorities, specifically Mahmoud Abbas, this urgency in getting the statehood bid underway, we heard him speak earlier as well, promising the Gazans, promising the Palestinians that he will follow through this because he believes that this is diverging attention from the statehood bid, is the main aim of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
Now that we are seeing this urgency on the part of the Palestinian authority to get the statehood bid underway, this recognition underway. Do you think that the Israeli side had not calculated this or this is something that they had expected?
Falk: It is extremely hard to be very precise about what the Israeli motivations are and there are probably different motivations on the part of different elements in the Israeli leadership.
My own judgment is that the statehood issue is not at the top of the list of the Israeli priorities in relation to this attack on Gaza but these other considerations give us more insight into why the attacks occurred at this level of intensity at this time and I do believe that it has much to do with Israeli internal politics and its attempts to create this sense of intimidation in the region that it is a state whose military machine will be used whenever it pleases and then it will enjoy the unconditional backing of the United States.
Press TV: Mr. Falk I am going through what you have said before as well also written about on different websites. You have said that the idea that Israel defends itself by such an all-out attack on an undefended society is humanly unacceptable as well as being a mandate for future retaliation and festering hatred.
You also went on to say that the unfolding logic of the conflict that in a few years Israel will be confronted by more sophisticated rockets capable of eluding the Iron Dome and accurately pinpointing their intended targets; why do not you think Israeli officials have taken that into consideration as we are right now seeing an imminent ground takeover of Gaza as well?
Falk: I think that this highly militarized political leadership, including in this country, have a great deal of difficulty realizing that military power has its limit and cannot necessarily overcome politics of determined national resistance.
I mean four years ago when the attack on Gaza occurred ………but now Israel is confronted with much more formidable rocket responses that threaten its cities, so one sees in place here a military logic that I think does not work to Israel’s advantage and if this logic persists as I suggested, it could mean that the next cycle of violence will even be worse probably for both sides but it is a terrible dance of death that is involved and of course the Palestinian people, as your correspondent has suggested, live with this daily ordeal of confronting a situation where they are completely vulnerable, they have no means of defense; they have no real protection and their survival is their primary consideration.
Press TV: You have also said that another motivation behind this attack on Gaza is reinforcing the claims of Netanyahu that he is a gallant protector of the Israeli people but considering we are seeing the failure of the Iron Dome to intercept more than a third of the rockets that are being fired from Gaza; the “insecurity” that has been created for Israelis who are now having to take shelter in bunkers and bomb shelters and are having it put up with the emergency sirens going off; is this working out well for him?
Falk: No, I think it is a terrible outcome from an Israeli point of view and it is particularly terrible because there is a diplomatic alternative.
Hamas has made it crystal clear that they are prepared to negotiate a long-term truce, that they have respected truces in the past and if Israel was to lift the blockade on Gaza, enter into a diplomatic relationship with the governing authorities there at the present time and stop treating them as a terrorist organization, it would be a much greater contribution to Israeli security and I think that there would be a complete diminishing of violence on the Gaza-Israeli border but this militarist way of dealing with the occupied territories, it seems to me any way to be a terrible trap for the Israelis as well as a dreadful ordeal for the Palestinians.
Press TV: Indeed, but now looking at the situation as it stands, the truce negotiations in Egypt have broken down with Israelis officials saying they are not interested in de-escalation of the situation.
Where is this headed [in] long-term then? Are we going to see a war on Gaza every four years after the US elections and just before elections in Israel to create this bogyman, so to speak, of Hamas and the Gazans and the Palestinians as a whole, while during the four year hiatus, they keep the Gazans under siege, keep usurping Palestinian land, keep building settlements. Is this even sustainable?
Falk: I would hope not, though it is hard to grasp how the situation is altered without changes in the approach taken in Washington and the approach taken by Tel Aviv.
There is enough capacity of this military power to maintain this cycle of violence indefinitely. And it has been trying to say that seems to be the way in which the Israeli leadership approaches the issue of security. It is a dysfunctional way and it ignores the alternative that would probably bring both people much greater security and might lead to some kind of process that could finally bring the conflict to an end.