An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Firas Hamed

We present you with an exclusive interview with Mr. Firas Hamed, a newscaster at Makan Channel, that has been held by UAEVOICE, through our questions he was able to express his opinion on the UAE-Israel Peace Deal and its impacts on the Middle East region and the World.

Brief about Mr. Firas Hamed

Mr. Firas Hamed is working in the media field more than 15 years ago, as he worked as a reporter for RT Arabic in Jerusalem, and then as a reporter for Al-Hurra Channel in Israel. After that, he moved to i24News Channel, where he worked as a newscaster. Currently, he works as a newscaster at Makan Channel.

The interview with Mr. Firas Hamed goes as the following:

Everyone in the world, not just in the Middle East region, was surprised by the achievement of the UAE and Israel with regard to agreeing on freezing the Israeli Annexation of the Palestinian Territories in addition to establishing bilateral relations in various areas such as economic, health, technological, etc. There were supporters and opponents of this deal everywhere, but what about the Israeli ones?

How did the internal public opinion in Israel meet that Deal? Was there a general consensus of approval or some opposition?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: There are few issues in which there is an Israeli consensus because the state is based on democratic principles, but the idea of consensus remains linked to cases of justified war.

As for the UAE-Israel Peace Deal, the Israeli left-wing and Centre parties have strongly supported the Deal as long as it will achieve peace and stability in the region. As for the Israeli right-wing parties, they objected and grumbled despite the fact that Israeli Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu” is a right-wing, but there are a few of them who have blessed the Deal.

The right-wing’s problem is not with the Deal, but their opposition is “Netanyahu’s” concession on the issue of Annexation. In general, the right does not want to give the Palestinians a state.

Therefore, the majority of public opinion opposed the Deal, especially since a large part of them are settlers. The strange matter is that the annexation issue was the right-wing election propaganda, and now “Netanyahu” has waived!!

Mr. Firas said earlier that the Israeli right-wing objected to the Deal due to “Netanyahu’s” concession on the issue of Annexation; will that action influence the next elections to the detriment of the right-wing?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: It could have an impact, so’ Netanyahu” is trying to promote that the Annexation issue is still on the table and has not been cancelled. In general, the Israeli right- does not intend to recognize a Palestinian state, so any political action in this regard before the elections will have an effect, but elections are still far away.

What is the reason behind “Netanyahu’s” concession? Is there American pressure to accept that Deal and to push the Palestinian cause into an advanced stage, or what do you see in this regard?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: I do not think that there is a concession on the Israeli Annexation of Palestinian Territories, and perhaps “Netanyahu” is trying to gain points internally with this step.

On the American side, the American President Trump focuses mainly now on the presidential elections that will be held in next November 2020 as he wants to improve his popularity.

The American administration succeeded in breaking the prevailing approach, which is to start with a peace treaty first and then normalize the relations, but today normalization began before peace. Everyone understands this, as the geopolitical circumstances in the Middle East have changed, especially with the presence of Iran and its relentless attempts to extend its influence in the entire region.

What do you think of the Palestinian situation which rejects the Deal, and was the Israeli officials expecting such a Palestinian reaction?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: Once again, I think that the Palestinians’ decisions and statements are flawed and remained alone

The Israelis were not surprised by the Palestinian situation, as this is not the first time that the Palestinians have rejected attempts to help them. Their response came without studying and analyzing the regional changes that occurred and modern strategies adopted in the Middle East.

Some Israelis understand that situation because the Palestinians have relied for years on the Arab countries, and today these countries look for their interests, have different foreign policies and have national security concerns, so they have to cope with the changes.

Now, the Palestinians should exploit the step taken by the UAE in the right way, as it may lead to a quantum leap in the peace process, especially since there are reports that Israel has agreed to freeze the settlement process. Perhaps the current situation may be the best start for peace negotiations, especially since the Palestinian side has new sponsors for negotiations and guarantors of the peace process like the United Arab of Emirates.

From your point of view, if the UAE-Israel Deal proceeds according to the expected positive effects of it, Could it lead to negotiations on establishing two Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side? And Could the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees raise once again to the negotiating table between the two sides?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: The issue is related to Palestinians, as well as the results of the American next elections. The majority of the Israelis desire a two-state solution, but the issue of Palestinian refugees’ return constitutes a problem with the Israelis, as it is not possible to return all the refugees to Israel, but it is possible to agree on the return of small numbers inside Israel and the rest to the Palestinian state. But now, all that matters to Israel is Iran, Hezbollah and Turkey.

In addition, I think that Palestinians are not ready for negotiations, as the Palestinian division is still present between Ramallah and Gaza, so with whom Israelis will negotiate?!

What do you think of the situations of both Iran and Turkey denouncing the Deal, as it came in joint statements that the Deal is a treachery of the Palestinians’ rights?

  1. Turkey:

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: In Israel, statements by Turkish president “Erdoğan” were met with ridicule. Turkey recognized Israel in 1949, and the two countries have diplomatic and economic relations, reciprocal visits, and arms deals. In addition, there are Turkish companies operating in Israel. Consequently, how can Turkey make such statements?!

That Deal revealed Turkey’s true mask, which is the manipulation of religious and national sentiments. They want to defend Al-Aqsa while they recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and they use Palestinians for internal but most external considerations.

  1. Iran:

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: Iran is today an enemy of Israel and the Gulf states, and some Israeli officials confirmed that Iranian statements regarding the UAE-Israel Deal reflect Iran’s fear and concern, as that Deal would give Israel a foothold off Iranian shores and a strategic air corridor in addition to the intelligence and security cooperation between the UAE and Israel

Every state understood that Iranian and Turkish policies are double standards, and that Deal will affect their influence in the Middle East region.

We also followed the news on the terms of the UAE-Israel Deal, which would establish cooperation between the Emirati and Israeli sides. Will we see in the coming days a diplomatic exchange between Israel and a Gulf state, especially since there is no Gulf diplomatic representation in Israel or vice versa?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: An Israeli delegation and the Director of the Mossad will travel to the UAE soon within days to discuss the details of the provisions of the Deak. Therefore, I think that it takes some time to start implementing these provisions, as the Deal still needs final touches, especially security matters. That is why “Netanyahu” assigned the head of the National Security Council to be responsible for the Deal, which gives the impression that there are important security provisions will be included in the Deal. Ultimately, we will see a diplomatic exchange between the two countries within weeks or months.

Do you expect some Arab countries to follow the example of the UAE towards closer relations with Israel? And who are those countries in particular?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: We will also witness other countries joining the UAE Despite what is said that Bahrain, the Sultanate of Oman, or Sudan will announce a similar deal; I think that Morocco is closer to do that because it has a large Jewish community, and it is linked with Israel by trade exchange relations. Morocco needs Washington’s recognition of the Western Sahara and solution to the Polisario issue, so the gateway to these actions is Israel and the American condition is the declaration of a peace deal with the latter.

What about relations in other areas of cooperation, such as economy, health, culture, modern technology, and so on between the UAE and Israel. After announcing the Deal, will these areas witness a quantum leap also?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: Economic relations between the UAE and Israel have existed for some time, but they began to appear in public with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. It was reported that the Mossad brought from the UAE tools and devices related to examining Coronavirus cases, and then two UAE aid planes landed at Ben Gurion International Airport carrying medical supplies for the Palestinians, but they refused it.

Therefore, I believe that the quantum leap in bilateral relations through the UAE-Israel strategic agreement may occur rapidly, and there will be a clear economic exchange between the Israeli and Emirati technology companies.

Health cooperation began a while ago and will be increased in the coming period. “Netanyahu,” said during a recent speech that the UAE and Israel would cooperate to find a vaccine for the Coronavirus.

Accordingly, I think that the focus of UAE-Israel relations at the beginning will be on economic cooperation, which will witness a quantum leap, followed by other areas such as culture and perhaps the most prominent will be a sport.

We know that many agreements, initiatives, and political stations regarding the Palestinian cause and the relations between Arab Countries and Israel have emerged from Camp David to Madrid, Oslo, Annapolis and others. What is your evaluation of the Emirati political initiative with Israel and the USA? Is it different from the above-mentioned ones?

Mr. Firas Hamed Said: I think that UAE-Israel strategic agreement might be a great start. All the initiatives above mentioned are based on one principle and follow the same way, and all of them did not achieve the expected results. Perhaps the solution lies in thinking in a different way or taking another approach. The beginning of peace and then starting relations did not completely succeed in previous initiatives, and the UAE initiative may differ and bear good results, as it began with establishing relations with Israel, and then peace will come. This approach may have a great effect in the event that other Arab countries catch up with the UAE, because these countries will stand by the Palestinian side in the negotiations, and these countries will be guarantors of any agreement that occurs between the Palestinians and Israelis.

On the larger scale, the UAE-Israel strategic agreement strengthens the two-state solution, as it freezes the issue of Annexation of Palestinian Territories. Today, after announcing the Deal, the term two-state solution returned to the headlines and it may turn into a real agenda in the event of breakthroughs such as the Deal with the UAE.

As for “Netanyahu”, he recognized the two-state solution, and those close to him from the past until today know that he wants a solution. As for what I heard recently of statements tending to the right-wing, these statements were for political considerations aiming at satisfying the right-wing, which was almost dominant over the government. Today, the political map is not much different, but “Netanyahu” enjoys strong popularity and he is able to make and implement decisions.

Mr. Firas Hamed continued his speech saying that; Today, it is not easy in Israel to make significant concessions to Palestinians, but with starting any negotiations, I think actions will change. Whoever makes peace with Egypt and Jordan or concludes the Oslo and Camp David deals, will take similar steps.

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