Unless the U.S. is willing to bite the bullet and finally confront Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, the forthcoming mission to the region by U.S. representatives Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to “restart the peace process” on behalf of President Donald Trump may prove to be highly counterproductive.
Abbas is coming to the end of his reign. A brutal and corrupt dictator, he is determined that his legacy be that of an embattled “freedom fighter” committed to reversal of the Nakba, his ultimate objective being the restoration of Arab hegemony from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. His means to achieve this necessitate the dismemberment of the Jewish state in stages through terrorism and international pressure.
Until now, he has basically ignored Trump’s requests and demands. Incitement and calls for “resistance” via the media and imams urging Palestinians to kill Israelis and become shahids (martyrs) have reached a record high. Abbas himself whipped up religious hysteria based on the false cry that Jews were taking over and desecrating Al-Aqsa mosque, thus triggering the recent riots and encouraging further terror attacks. Children are brainwashed into regarding Jews as subhuman descendants of apes and pigs, propaganda reminiscent of and frequently replicated from Nazi sources.
The PA and its leaders continue honoring mass murders as freedom fighters, dedicating mosques, city squares, schools and other institutions in their names to commemorate their murderous acts.
Despite personal demands from Trump, Abbas has vowed that he will never close the Palestine National Fund, which provides generous pensions and massive financial awards for imprisoned or killed terrorists and their families, the amounts proportionate to the success of the terrorist act. Incarcerated murderers top the list with monthly payments of 11,000 shekels (more than $3,000), which is augmented with $25,000 if they are released from jail. This year. the fund has distributed $345 million, comprising half of the $693 million the PA receives in foreign aid. Thus the U.S. and European countries have effectively been providing funds to incentivize Palestinians to murder Israelis.
The U.S. Congress has now passed legislation to deduct an equivalent of these funds from aid provided to the Palestinians. The Europeans have taken no action, although Germany, the U.K. and Norway are “reviewing” the situation.
Abbas has responded by vowing to maintain the payouts, which he describes as “social welfare” and in recent weeks has even increased the payments.
His recent proclamation that security arrangements with the Israelis had been terminated was never effectively implemented. The reality is that the Abbas regime would be undermined if it annulled the security coordination whereby police constrain the enormous popular resentment by the people against the regime. While the security arrangements did reduce pressure on the IDF, the party with the most to lose if it were terminated would be the corrupt PA—which would then probably collapse or be taken over by Hamas.
Abbas has now condemned the U.S. as being biased and unfit to act as an intermediary.
The Israelis, on the other hand, appreciate that with the Trump administration in disarray, mixed messages have emerged in relation to the peace process. Trump repeatedly reaffirms that he stands by Israel, but he has yet to fulfill his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has been exceptionally forthright; the recent flow of statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his departmental releases, however, are highly disconcerting and ominously reminiscent of the Obama era.
Tillerson informed the Senate that the Palestinians were moving forward positively in the peace process and had undertaken to bring an end to “martyr” payments. This was promptly denied. In July, the State Department released a report commending Abbas for having “significantly” addressed incitement. The report also stated that Palestinian terror was prompted “by a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Temple Mount and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.” Such observations could match those issued two years ago, at the height of then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s diplomatic campaign against Israel.
This should not be interpreted as an indication that the U.S. has abandoned Israel. It merely reflects the divisions inside the administration, which were unlikely to have emerged had Trump not been diverted by the chaos in other areas. Fortunately, Tillerson has largely been excluded from direct engagement in peace negotiations and Trump has now authorized Kushner and Greenblatt “to restart the peace process.” They will visit the region in the next few days.
To further complicate matters, both the Palestinians and Israelis are entangled in domestic turmoil. Abbas, the duplicitous rogue with the forked tongue, rules as a dictator and has created a culture of death. However, he is aged and his people realize that his time in office is limited. He has never been willing to make any meaningful concessions to Israelis, who were desperate to separate themselves from the Palestinians, and is now unlikely to make any moves in that direction. On the contrary, he has been actively strengthening relations with the Iranians and the Turks who now support him as well as Hamas. But the people are restless and there is already jockeying among those seeking to replace him.
Israelis are also facing domestic problems with the endless campaigns to demonize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and indict him on charges of corruption. Fortunately, he is unlikely to face major political pressures in relation to the peace process because the opposition would become a laughingstock if it sought to pressure him to make concessions to the PA.
In this context—setting aside the problem of Hamas in Gaza—it is impossible to envisage Trump’s representatives making any progress. Kushner has even recently conceded that he feared that a realistic solution to the impasse at present could well be impossible.
The question is, how will the American representatives respond when, as is likely, Abbas gives them the thumbs up. Will they once again engage in the farce of an ongoing “peace process” that fails to bring Abbas to account? Or will they urge Trump to realize that it is time to state openly that the protective cover for the aggressive Palestinian leaders is over, and call on the world to cease providing them with the power to continue their incitement and terrorism against Israel?
They should outline an economic program, which Israel will certainly endorse, focused on building institutions and creating infrastructure that will enhance the living standards of Palestinians, few of whom have benefited from the huge amounts of foreign aid that their corrupt leaders siphoned off into their own bank accounts. They should also encourage the moderate Arab states to press for a new leadership that would be willing to make peace with Israel.
However, should they decide, yet again, to paper over reality and continue “pursuing peace,” the visit will actually prove to be counterproductive and Israel by itself will be compelled, as was the case hitherto, to look after its own interests.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom