After truce ends, Israel moves forward in its effort to destroy Hamas
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Israel-Hamas war is back on today. A truce expired with each side blaming the other. Israel says Hamas fired rockets out of Gaza. Israeli forces dropped bombs on Gaza. And the NPR producer on the ground affirms numerous people have been killed. So Israel is moving forward, at least for now, in its effort to destroy Hamas, which has ruled Gaza, and we still don't know who would replace them. Let's talk about this with Khalil Shikaki. He is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. He is based in Ramallah on the West Bank. He's now in Boston. Welcome to the program, sir.
KHALIL SHIKAKI: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Beginning assumptions here. Do you view it as likely or certain that Israel will, in fact, displace Hamas from ruling Gaza?
SHIKAKI: Highly unlikely. I can't see a scenario in which Israel will successfully eliminate Hamas completely. It will significantly weaken it, but there is little prospect that it will be able to completely destroy the movement ability to have some residual governing capacity in the Gaza Strip.
INSKEEP: Really? So you envision Hamas still there and still trying to run the place, even as Israeli troops move where they want to move?
SHIKAKI: I believe that Israel, if its goals are to be achieved, will have to reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. But then the question will be, then do what? If Israel wants to stay, there will be counterinsurgency. That will be its mission because Hamas will continue to fight and inflict casualties on the Israelis. The Israelis will then have to decide whether they want to continue to fight Hamas or have somebody else control Gaza. And at that point, the question will be, who will that third party be? And right now, of course, there is no consensus on what that will be. The U.S. wants the PA to return. Israel might be interested in some other options.
INSKEEP: Well, let's talk that through. The United States wants the PA to return. You refer, of course, to the Palestinian Authority, which currently governs the West Bank, where you live, the other large Palestinian-somewhat-controlled region nearby. The Palestinian Authority has not expressed any interest in taking over governance, has it?
SHIKAKI: The Palestinian Authority is interested, but it does not want its return to Gaza to be the product of an agreement with Israel. That would look like the Palestinian Authority is an agent that will replace the Israeli army, and therefore, it has no interest in doing that. It knows if that is to happen, then it, the Palestinian Authority, will become a target of Hamas, just as the Israeli army is likely to be. And therefore, the Palestinian Authority wants its return to be part of a larger deal on a two-state solution that will be negotiated between the two sides and an agreement that would allow it to return with Hamas' consent.
INSKEEP: Oh. Well, let's talk that through, a two-state solution. This is something the United States has always or nearly always favored. The current Israeli government, the current Israeli prime minister does not. Benjamin Netanyahu talks of something considerably below a Palestinian state. I'd just like to know at this moment - I mean, there's a lot of public support, it seems, among Palestinians for Hamas, which does not favor a two-state solution, favors the elimination of Israel. Do you think there is significant Palestinian public support for a two-state solution if it ever really were on offer?
SHIKAKI: Right now, there isn't. But that is the position of the Palestinian Authority. If this looks like a feasible solution to the conflict, there will be greater support. Right now, the lack of support is mainly due to the belief that it is simply not feasible, the fact that Israel is opposed to the two-state solution.
INSKEEP: Do you think that any Palestinian leader could support a two-state solution and stay in power? Would he even have enough support to do that?
SHIKAKI: Of course. The current Palestinian leadership is in favor of a two-state solution. The official position of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority is indeed to create a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.
INSKEEP: Khalil Shikaki is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Thanks so much.
SHIKAKI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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