The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, VARSEN AGHABEKIAN answers questions on the Amalthea Corridor, the latest ceasefire proposal for Gaza and the so-called ‘day after’ the war

How does the Palestine Authority view the Amalthea corridor, which was the initiative of Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides?

From the beginning, we have been clear that we welcome any humanitarian initiative that contributes to alleviating the suffering of our people and supports their resilience on their land in the face of Israeli plans aimed at displacing them and emptying the Palestinian land. We have also said that we trust the Cypriot government and its intentions stemming from the brotherly and historical relations between the Cypriot and Palestinian peoples. However, we certainly do not trust Israel and understand its plans aimed at displacing our people from Gaza by all means. We have also said that it is important to open all crossings to allow the entry of aid.

Was the authority ever involved in the discussions for setting it up? If not, what would you have preferred to be done differently?

Our relationship with the Cypriot government is strong and stable, requiring constant and continuous coordination between both parties on issue. However, I reiterate that any ambiguity regarding the corridor stems from our doubts about the intentions and objectives of the Israeli side, which are not hidden and aim to displace our people from our land.

Has Amalthea, despite being beset by problems been helpful in getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza?

The situation in Gaza, as you know, is extremely complex. Any initiative or attempt by any party to alleviate the suffering of our people always collides with the Israeli side. A prime example of this is the deliberate killing of “World Central Kitchen” employees and the repeated attacks on “safe areas”. Here we ask, which is easier and more practical? Using corridors and building floating ports, or opening existing crossing points that are controlled by the Israeli army? In my opinion, sufficient pressure and compliance measures have not been exerted on Israel to compel it to open the crossings for humanitarian reasons.

Earlier this week we were seeing news reports of allegations that the jetty was instrumentalised to attack people in Gaza. Do you agree with this? 

We do not put it past an army that practises genocide, bombs schools, hospitals, places of worship, and even plastic tents, and aims to make Gaza uninhabitable, to exploit the port or other facilities for carrying out its criminal attacks. Despite this, I cannot confirm or deny the use of the port for this purpose. There should be independent, specialised international investigative committees to verify this.

There is now a Gaza ceasefire proposal on the table. Do you believe that its acceptance would end Israel’s attack on Gaza?

Israel and Netanyahu’s extremist government have a single policy that includes the West Bank, Jerusalem and The Gaza Strip, which they implement through various aggressive and repressive means. Their goal is the same: a plan based on displacement and depopulation. Israel has besieged Gaza for 17 years, practises state terrorism and enforces apartheid policies in the West Bank and Jerusalem. They arrest, starve, confiscate lands and daily oppress the Palestinian people. Regarding the genocide in Gaza, note that when Israel proposed a prisoner exchange and a ceasefire, which Hamas agreed to, Israel withdrew its proposal because Netanyahu had decided to continue the war and the policy of destruction in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. This is also to maintain his coalition government.

How do you see the situation developing after the end of Israel’s offensive?

The world wonders about the so-called “day after” the war on Gaza. It might be more appropriate for the international community to focus on the ongoing massacres, the relentless and ongoing genocide, using starvation as a weapon, and the daily cold-blooded killing of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. What about the decisions of the ICC and ICJ? Will international and civilised society’s pressure be exerted on Israel to implement these decisions? Isn’t it time to hold war criminals accountable for their crimes? Isn’t it time to stop treating Israel as if it is above the law? This is what the world should be concerned about the day after. We are a people who believe in and practise democracy. Let the occupation end, and we, as an authority, have always been ready to conduct elections democratically and transparently. The reason for not achieving elections in recent years is Israel’s insistence on preventing us from holding elections in East Jerusalem, our eternal capital. Our government is also ready to fulfill its responsibilities in Gaza with all available means and resources.

How would you like it to develop? What would be the ideal peace agreement for you?

Our region does not suffer from a lack of initiatives, agreements, or resolutions. The ongoing unrest and suffering of the region is due to the non-implementation of international legitimacy decisions and Israel’s non-compliance with already signed agreements.

For example, when the Oslo Accords, which were unfair to us, were signed, we adhered to the finest details, but the Israeli side did not. In 1993, the number of settlers in the West Bank was 120,000. Now, the number of settlers has exceeded 800,000. Instead of the gradual withdrawal of the Israeli occupation army and the settlers from the West Bank, as stipulated in the agreement, the number of military checkpoints and settlements has gradually increased.

This indicates that all Israeli governments since 1993 have pursued a policy of expansion, settlement and land confiscation, aiming to eliminate the idea of a two-state solution. This coincides with fighting the Palestinian National Authority and preventing it from fulfilling its duties towards our people. The answer to your question about the optimal solution is simply the implementation of international law and related decisions, Israel’s withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, the empowerment of the independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and recognition of this state by all countries worldwide.

Do you think the defeat of Hamas, which is Israel’s stated objective, make prospects of a deal between Israel and the Palestinian authority easier?

Defeat and victory have different meanings and interpretations. We are not talking about a conventional war to determine the defeated and the victor. Israel’s intentions and its colonial settlement project are much deeper than defeating Hamas or others. Since 1948, the year of the Nakba, our people have suffered from settlement policies, expansion and daily humiliation in the minutest details of their lives.

Israel’s history is full of massacres even before the founding of Hamas. I remind you of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982, and before that Kafr Qasim, Tantura and Deir Yassin, among others. Returning to the concept of victory and defeat, I recall what the philosopher Edward Said said: “You cannot defeat your enemy unless you surpass it morally.” The world now clearly sees the morals of the Israeli army!

Would the Palestinian people support any type of agreement the authority might reach with Israel?

The Palestinian people, due to their suffering under occupation and wars, are among the world’s most devoted people to peace and justice. The Palestinian people support and will continue to support agreements that grant them freedom and dignity. This can only be achieved through the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions that will ensure the Palestinian’s right to self-determination, the empowerment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and an acceptable solution to the refugee problem.