As Israel has begun its unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a number of Palestinian intellectuals have urged the Palestinian Authority and resistance groups to tone down celebrations and pay attention to Israel’s expansion in the West Bank.
The calls came as the latest coordination meeting between Palestinian security minister Nasr Yousuf and Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, which took place on Sunday night, failed to resolve the outstanding issues pertaining to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Yousuf described the meeting as tense and unsuccessful, accusing Israel of refusing to provide satisfactory answers for some of the most fundamental questions pertaining to the post-withdrawal arrangements at border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The high-profile victory celebrations in Gaza by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and each of the resistance groups, which some sources said would cost up to $10 million, have been criticised as disproportionate and “highly exaggerated” by some intellectuals.
One critic is Ali Jerbawi, Professor of Political Science at Beir Zeit University and former head of the Palestinian Election Commission. Writing in the Ram Allah-based newspaper al-Ayyam on Monday, Jerbawi criticised what he said was a “slide in the Palestinian official and popular agenda which emphasises with utmost exaggeration the Gaza Strip while relegating Jerusalem and the West Bank to a secondary status”.
Jerbawi criticised the “Gaza-today and Jerusalem-Tomorrow” slogan voiced last week by PA President Mahmoud Abbas as “mistaken both principally and strategically”.
“We must never forget that this withdrawal is a unilateral Israeli act aimed first and foremost at effecting the Israeli strategy of arrogating Jerusalem and over half of the West Bank. Hence our slogan should be ‘Jerusalem and the West Bank first, rather than Gaza first.’”
The Palestinian professor accused Israel and international parties of planning to make the Gaza Strip and “its many burdens” the Palestinian people’s main preoccupation, in order to enable Israel to complete her settlement expansion plans around Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.
Jerbawi asked: “Are these celebrations compatible with these concerns about what Israel is doing in the West Bank? Or maybe the celebrations are a different and separate matter aimed at political wrangling and scoring propaganda points?
Some PA officials, departing from the official line, have contended that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip may not necessarily serve the overall Palestinian national cause. This is the view of Ghassan Khatib, who has occupied several portfolios in successive PA governments.
“This unilateral step is designed to serve Israel’s strategic interests. Yes, it is nice to see the Israeli occupation recede from Gaza, but we must also remember that Israel has embarked on this step in order to evade a genuine peaceful settlement based on international law and legitimacy,” he told Aljazeera.net.
Khatib presented a pessimistic assessment of the post-withdrawal situation between Israel and the Palestinians, believing that Israel would seek to “assert and enforce the unilateralism mode in her behaviours towards the Palestinians”.
“You see, it all depends on the world community, if the world exerts real pressure on Israel, the Gaza withdrawal will be proven a step in the right direction, but if it doesn’t, then we will face a deadlock and a lot of violence.”
Meanwhile, Hamas has called for “utilising our earned victory in Gaza” to mobilise Palestinians towards the restoration of the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the Israeli occupiers.
Hamas spokesman in the northern West Bank, Muhammed Ghazal, rejected charges that celebrations in Gaza were diverting Palestinians’ attention from the West Bank and Jerusalem. “The purpose of our celebrations is not to hypnotise the masses but to sensitise and galvanise them towards the future, towards the restoration of Jerusalem and our rights,” he told Aljazeera.net
Ghazal said the Gaza celebrations should carry the message that Zionism could be defeated and that resistance to the Zionist enterprise was not futile. “Arabs and Muslims worldwide must realise the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is not an act of Zionist magnanimity, but rather the result of sustained resistance and heroic sacrifices.”
Hamas said it would organise impressive celebrations throughout the Gaza Strip to mark what the chief Hamas sokesman in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, called “the first receding of Zionism from Palestine”. Earlier, Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip vowed to retain their weapons until the restoration of Palestinian rights from Israeli hands. Israel and the United States have been demanding that the PA dismantle and disarm resistance groups such as Hamas. However, the PA has favoured consensus politics, arguing that hounding Hamas and other resistance groups would lead to civil war.
Khalid Amayreh is a journalist based in the occupied West Bank. This article was originally published by aljazeera.net and reprinted on EI permission.