The West should condition aid to the Palestinian Authority on cessation of terror-promotion

After two decades of policy failure, is it not about time the West tried a more demanding approach toward the Palestinian Authority?

Palestinian security forces arrange the 91 coffins returned by Israel last week
Henry Kopel
On 6 June 2012 11:03

Here is the counter-terrorism question of the month:

How much terrorism can a foreign paramilitary organization promote before it ceases to be a “peace partner” of the Western democracies and loses its foreign aid funding?

Regarding the Palestinian Authority (“PA”), which governs the West Bank territory between the Jordan River and Israel, the answer seems to be: quite a lot.

For those who follow what the PA actually does in its government-controlled schools, TV shows, civic ceremonies, and government spending, the PA’s pervasive promotion of hatred and terrorism is a long-established fact. Anyone who doubts that would do well to peruse the vast store of evidence assembled by the non-profit organizations Palestine Media Watch (“PMW”) and Middle East Media Research Institute ("MEMRI”), both available online.

Denying the existence of Israel in its maps; spreading anti-Semitic lies such as, the Jews poison Palestinian wells, and kidnap Palestinians to harvest their organs; teaching schoolchildren that the Holocaust is a fraud, and that Israel is “the Zionist enemy”; naming schools and public squares after suicide bombers; and paying stipends to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons – all these are well documented and on-going activities of the PA.

This is the same PA that, since the 1993 Oslo accords, the United States has insisted is a partner for peace, and has received well over a billion dollars in aid from U.S. taxpayers. And this is the same PA whose leaders have entered binding international agreements to shut down all state-controlled incitement of hatred and violence against Israel.

These include the 1993 Oslo Accords, which promised that “All official Palestinian institutions [shall] end incitement against Israel.” Later, the 1995 Oslo interim agreements promised that “each side shall . . .actively prevent incitement to violence.” And again, the 2002 Quartet Road Map for Peace pledged that “All Palestinian institutions [shall] end incitement against Israel.”

Still, even a jaded observer may be taken aback by the brazenness of the PA’s latest terror celebration. Last week, in a goodwill gesture, Israel handed over to the PA, 91 coffins containing the remains of Palestinian terrorists who died while committing or attempting to commit mass murders of Israelis. How did the Palestinians respond to this gesture?

Led by their President, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA held a public ceremony lionizing those mass murderers with praise and full military honors. In front of the Presidential palace in Ramallah, while Palestinian police in dress uniform carried the 91 coffins, the PA’s Presidential guards fired a 21 gun salute.

President Abbas then laid wreaths on each coffin, flanked by an honor guard and senior PA officials. The PA’s senior Islamic cleric, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, said a prayer for the 91 terrorists, declaring that the PA leadership had gathered "today to celebrate their martyrdom." Other officials gave fulsome eulogies and claimed a "day of victory" for Palestinians.

To be clear: these are not the words and deeds of Hamas, nor of Hizbollah, nor of any other group whom the U.S. has declared a terrorist organization. No, these are the words and deeds of the so-called “moderate” Palestinian Authority, which for two decades the West has showered with financial aid and diplomatic support, all for the purpose of enticing it to abandon terrorism and enter serious peace negotiations with Israel.

It is bad enough that, almost twenty years and over a billion dollars later, nothing fundamental has changed – even the PA Charter remains committed to the destruction of Israel, despite Yasir Arafat’s 1993 promise to eliminate that language.

What’s worse is the world’s continued wilful blindness in the face of this latest outrage. Not a word from the U.S. State Department; silence from the “Quartet” – the putative honest broker for Middle East peace; and nothing from the self-proclaimed “human rights community,” which never hesitates to denounce Israel for imposing security measures that protect its citizens from Palestinian terror attacks.

Perhaps it is expecting too much of the PA that they would actually shut down their infrastructure of terror promotion. After all, the West has made quite clear by its conduct that it will keep the aid dollars flowing no matter what the PA actually does, or fails to do, about incitement.

As Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz compellingly argues in his book “Why Terrorism Works,” since the 1970s the West has regularly responded to surges of Palestinian terrorism by making ever more concessions. Like parents who give in to the violent tantrums of an ill-behaved child, the West imposes no serious consequence for the PA’s constant terror promotion.

What explains this passivity of Western leaders?

For some, especially in Europe’s foreign ministries, there is head-in-the-sand denial of the realities of the PA’s radicalism and commitment to Israel’s destruction. But among others who know better, there is the realpolitik concern that failure to prop up the PA will result in a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. Hence they argue, the West’s choice is limited to bad (the PA) and worse (Hamas).

The realists’ concern is not easily dismissed, given Hamas’s explicit, public commitment to Israel’s extermination. But that concern must be balanced against the current strategy’s abject failure to achieve its core objective, namely, turning the PA into a genuinely moderate government, one that has abandoned its commitment to Israel’s destruction, and that is capable of accepting and upholding a sustainable, two-state peace agreement.

Also weighing in the balance is the pervasive corruption of the PA, and its concomitant inability to provide decent governance and opportunity to its people.

Further, one cannot discount the possibility that the West’s policy of propping up the PA, far from exerting a moderating influence, may be facilitating the continued radicalization of the West Bank. For on the one hand, West Bank polling shows that the PA’s domestic governance is not perceived as significantly better than that of Hamas. Yet on the other hand, the PA’s monopoly of power leaves the West Bank Palestinians free to indulge the delusion that Hamas, unlike the PA, would be able to succeed in the great national cause of exterminating Israel.

In sum, the West’s soft bigotry of low expectations towards the PA may be stifling Palestinian political development rather than moderating it. A study published in the Summer 2008 issue of Middle East Quarterly showed a stark and consistent correlation between increases in Western aid to the PA, and increases in both homicides and suicide bombings by Palestinians.

After two decades of policy failure, why not at least try a more demanding approach, one which expects more of the PA than just lip service to the “peace process” while raising yet another generation of terrorists?

Linking Western aid to the PA’s shutting down its infrastructure of terror promotion would not only serve the cause of eventual peace. It might also help the Palestinians begin to escape their long and crippling entrapment in a politics of hatred and scapegoating, and slowly open the door to a much-needed liberalization of Palestinian society.

Henry Kopel is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Connecticut. The views here are his own, and do not reflect the views of the Justice Department

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