Archive for the ‘Palestinian public opinion’ category

The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan?

November 13, 2017

The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan? Gatestone Institute, Bassam Tawil, November 13, 2017

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more.

Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

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No American or European on the face of this earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Who said that Palestinians have no respect for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries? They do.

Palestinians have respect for the money of their Arab brethren. The respect they lack is for the heads of the Arab states, and the regimes and royal families there.

It is important to take this into consideration in light of the growing talk about Saudi Arabia’s effort to help the Trump Administration market a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East, the details of which remain intriguingly mysterious.

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict, reportedly being promoted by Jared Kushner.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Saudis pressured Abbas to endorse the Trump Administration’s “peace plan.” Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. At this stage, it remains unclear how Abbas responded to the Saudi “ultimatum.”

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict. Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. Pictured: Abbas on a previous visit to Saudi Arabia, on February 23, 2015, meeting with Saudi King Salman. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

If true, the Saudi “ultimatum” to Abbas is tantamount to asking him to sign his death warrant. Abbas cannot afford to be seen by his people as being in collusion with an American “peace plan” that does not comply completely with their demands. Abbas has repeatedly made it clear that he will not accept anything less than a sovereign Palestinian state on all the pre-1967 lands, including east Jerusalem. He has also emphasized that the Palestinians will never give up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” to their former homes inside Israel. Moreover, Abbas has clarified that the Palestinians will not accept the presence of any Israeli in their future Palestinian state.

Abbas has done his dirty work well. He knows that he cannot come back to his people with anything less than what he promised them. He knows that his people have been radicalized to the point that they will not agree to any concessions or compromise with Israel.

And who is responsible for this radicalization? Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, who continue unendingly to tell their people through the media, discourse and mosques that any concession to Israel constitutes treason, pure and simple.

So it would be naïve to think that Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country would be able to strong-arm any Palestinian leader to accept a “peace plan” that requires the Palestinians to make concessions to Israel. Abbas may have much respect for the ambitious and savvy young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This respect, however, certainly stops at the border of the political suicide – and extreme personal risk — from Abbas’s point of view.

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more.

Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

Nevertheless, no American or European on the face of this Earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

For now, it appears that the vast majority of Arab regimes no longer care about the Palestinians and their leaders. The Palestinians despise the Arab leaders as much as they despise each other. It is a mutual feeling. The Palestinians particularly despise any Arab leader who is aligned with the US. They do not consider the US an honest broker in the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Palestinians, in fact, view the US as being “biased” in favor of Israel, regardless of whether the man sitting in the Oval Office is a Democrat or Republican.

The Saudi crown prince is viewed by Palestinians as a US ally. His close relations with Jared Kushner are seen with suspicion not only by Palestinians, but by many other Arabs as well. Palestinian political analysts such as Faisal Abu Khadra believe that the Palestinian leadership should prepare itself to face the “mysterious” Trump “peace plan.” They are skeptical that the plan would meet the demands of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians appear to be united in rejecting the Trump Administration’s effort to “impose” a solution on them. They are convinced that the Americans, with the help of Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries, are working towards “liquidating” the Palestinian cause. Abbas and his rivals in Hamas now find themselves dreading the US administration’s “peace plan.”

Like lemmings drawn to the sea, the Palestinians seem to be marching towards yet another scenario where they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Bassam Tawil, a Muslim, is based in the Middle East.

INTO THE FRAY: The Taylor Force Act – Putting “Palestine” in perspective

September 1, 2017

INTO THE FRAY: The Taylor Force Act – Putting “Palestine” in perspective, Israel National News, Dr. Martin Sherman, September 1, 2017

The proposed bill, which was recently passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, is designed to stop American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority [PA] until it ceases its generous payments to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists.

Perversely, under the prevailing conditions, the more gruesome the act of terror and the longer the sentence imposed on the perpetrator, the greater the remuneration!

Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal points out, under existing circumstances, “U.S. aid becomes a transfer payment for terrorists”.

This is clearly an unconscionable situation and hence legislation to contend with it, and correct it, was not only appropriate, but imperative.

At the end of the day, the clash between Jew and Arab over the Holy Land is a clash between two collectives. For the Jewish collective, the Palestinian collective is—and must be treated as it sees itself: An implacable enemy, not a prospective peace partner.

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Congress is finally considering legislation to stop the Palestinian Authority from incentivizing violence…This has to stop, and the Taylor Force Act…attempts to do that. As it currently stands, the act would cut U.S. foreign assistance to the ‘West Bank’ and Gaza in its entirety if the “payments for acts of terrorism against United States and Israeli citizens …do not stop…. There should definitely be no ‘pay to slay’, but…[b]eing smart counts for more than being right. And the smart approach is one that also recognizes that innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control. – David Makovsky et al“The Smart Way to End ‘Pay to Slay’”, Foreign Policy, August 2, 2017.

Lesley Stahl, on CBS’s 60 Minutes on the effects of US led sanctions against Iraq (May 12, 1996): We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” 

Madelaine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations , subsequently President Clinton’s Secretary of State: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.

Recently, three members of the well-known think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, posted an article on the new legislative initiative, named the Taylor Force Act after the West Point graduate and veteran, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel last year.

Appropriate and imperative

The proposed bill, which was recently passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support, is designed to stop American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority [PA] until it ceases its generous payments to individuals who commit acts of terrorism and to the families of deceased terrorists.

Perversely, under the prevailing conditions, the more gruesome the act of terror and the longer the sentence imposed on the perpetrator, the greater the remuneration!

Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal points out, under existing circumstances, “U.S. aid becomes a transfer payment for terrorists”.

This is clearly an unconscionable situation and hence legislation to contend with it, and correct it, was not only appropriate, but imperative.

The need for a punitive response to the egregious “pay for slay” custom of the PA was conceded by the previously mentioned Washington Institute article, entitled “The Smart Way to End ‘Pay to Slay’”.

Penned by David Makovsky,  distinguished fellow  and director of the project on the Middle East Peace Process, veteran diplomat Dennis Ross, distinguished fellow and counsellor on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship, and Lia Weiner, a research assistant, it clearly proclaims “There should definitely be no ‘pay to slay’… This has to stop.”

“…the ‘mistakes’ of a government they cannot control”.

However, it cautions against an across-the-board cessation of US funds to the PA, calling for a more nuanced (read “watered-down”) application of the punitive cuts: “Threats of sweeping cuts to Palestinian aid may hurt the cause more than they help.” They warn that “To entirely defund U.S. aid to the ‘West Bank’ and Gaza is…to halt economic and social progress there”, proposing instead an approach that “recognizes that innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control”.

But making the innocent members of the population pay for the nefarious deeds of governments they “cannot control” has been the hall mark of American policy across the globe for years—even when those governments have been far more tyrannical than the PA.

Indeed, why should “innocent Palestinians” merit greater consideration than “innocents”   in a range of despotic regimes against which the US has imposed punishing, at times crippling, economic penalties—such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea?

For example the US-led UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein-controlled Iraq inflicted wide-spread suffering (see introductory excerpt) on innocent Iraqis—including women, infants and the elderly—who, arguably, had much less chance of influencing the actions of their government than do the “innocent Palestinians” with regard to Abbas’s PA.

A government reflecting popular preferences

Indeed, while it is true that they “have not been able to vote in an election for more than a decade”, and to a large measure cannot “control” the current PA government, they certainly did empower it.  In fact, it is in many ways, a government of their making—and theirs alone.

After all, in the last elections held in 2006, the Islamist terror organization Hamas and PA president Abbas’s Fatah won just over 90% of the vote—with the former winning 74 and the later 45 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Interestingly, the third largest party was a faction representing the radical hardline Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist group founded by the infamous George Habash and headed today by Ahmed Saadat, currently in an Israeli prison for his part in planning the 2001 assassination of Israeli minister, Rehavam Zeevi .

Moreover, parties focusing on socio-economic reforms and human rights fared extremely poorly. Thus, the “Third Way” headed by former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad and a former PA Minister, the well-known Hanan Ashrawi, won a paltry 2 seats, while the National Coalition for Justice and Democracy,  headed by prominent physician and human rights activist  Eyad El-Sarraj won, well…none

“Palestine”: What the polls predict

However, not only did the last elections show a vast endorsement of rejectionist views (both Fatah and Hamas –and the PFLP–vehemently reject any recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews), but recent public opinion polls provide little cause for optimism that this is likely to change.Indeed, should Abbas leave his post, the most popular candidates are Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti, currently serving multiple life sentences in Israel for a myriad of lethal acts of terror, and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh. 

Moreover, findings for legislatives elections show that almost 70% would vote for either Fatah or Hamas, 10% for all other parties, with over 20% being undecided.

Thus, there is little reason to believe that—were new elections to be held—they would produce a sea-change for the better in the composition of the PA, or its policy.  In fact, there is considerable room for concern that the very opposite might well be true.

But perhaps most damaging to Makovsky, Ross and Weiner’s contention that “innocent Palestinians…should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of a government they cannot control” is the finding that there is near unanimous public endorsement  for the very financial support that the Taylor Force Act is intended to terminate.

“Pay to Slay” & Vox Populi 

Stunningly (or not), a July 2017 survey by Palestinian Center of Policy and Survey Research, headed by the well-known Palestinian pollster, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, found that “an almost total consensus rejects pressure on the PA to terminate payments to Palestinian security prisoners” and   “91% are opposed to the suspension of PA payments to Palestinian security prisoners [i.e. jailed terrorists- MS] in Israeli jails; only 7% support such measure”.

This is precisely the reality mirrored in an article that appeared in Tablet Magazine this week by Alex Kane, according to which” the prisoner payment program is one of the most popular PA programs, and it would be political suicide for the PA to halt it.

So, in stark contradiction to the impression conveyed by Makovsky, Ross and Weiner, the “pay to slay” policy is not something foisted on a reluctant peace-seeking  “innocent” Palestinian population , but is, in fact enthusiastically embraced by it—reflecting nothing more (or less) than vox populi.

Indeed, it is more than a little disturbing to see such “luminaries” as Makovsky and Ross propagating views demonstrably detached from reality, in what appears to be  a misplaced endeavor to create the false impression that, overall, the Palestinians,  share their  worldview—when, in fact,  they clearly seem to have a very different one…

Self-contradictory, self-obstructive “rationale”

But beyond the fact that their contentions sit uneasily with the empirical evidence, they appear to have additional disconcerting implications. Thus, they endorse the view that “although a tough message [should be] sent to the PA about the consequences of incentivizing violence”, they recommend that measures undertaken should “prevent any deterioration in the quality of life for Palestinians lest that lead to greater radicalization”.

This appears to reflect a curious rationale which suggests that if one is punished for bad behavior, then one’s behavior will become…worse???

This never was a consideration in, say, Serbia, where markets, hospitals, buses, bridges and old age facilities—to name but a few civilian targets that were hit in high altitude bombing sorties in the US-led NATO attacks in the Balkans War of the 1990s.

Indeed, the claim that harsh punitive measures against an authoritarian regime will only make the regime –or the population under its control—more recalcitrant flies in the face of the most basic elements of deterrence theory. After all, if the threat of harsh measures cannot coerce the regime to modify its behavior, why should measures less harsh do the trick?

Moreover, if the collective is not forced to feel the consequences of actions carried out in its name- there is clearly no reason for these actions to cease.  This is particularly true in the case of the “pay to slay” practice, which, while it may be implemented by an authoritarian regime, is widely endorsed by the general public. In this context, the rationale advanced by Makovsky, Ross et al appears to be at once both self-contradictory and self-obstructive.

 Clash of collectives 

It is of course somewhat discomforting to see such well-placed and well-connected pundits misread the lay-of-the-land so profoundly. For such gross misperception can only help perpetuate the conflict and its attendant suffering.

Firstly, these misperceptions nourish the false premise that privation drives radicalization, which is clearly disproven by the radicalization of many seemingly well-integrated Muslim youth in Europe, and the fact that in several Arab countries the greatest animosity towards Israel is harbored by the professional, well-to-do echelons of society.

Secondly, they obscure the real nature of the Israel-Arab conflict and hence, hamper the efforts to bring it to an end—diverting efforts toward bogus “causes”.

In this regard, then-defense minister Moshe-“Bogey” Yaalon, in a November 2015 address, correctly diagnosed the conflict as a clash of collectives i.e.  “…predominantly a war of wills, of two societies with conflicting wills”.

But, if the clash is essentially one between collectives, surely victory will require one collective breaking the will of the rival collective. Accordingly, ensuring that said rival can maintain its daily routine hardly seems the most promising stratagem to adopt in an effort to break its will and achieve victory.Indeed, if anything, it would seem the exigencies for a collective victory over an adversarial collective would dictate the diametrically opposite endeavor – disrupt the daily routine of the adversary. After all, misdeeds perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian collective must carry a price, which the collective pays – for if not, it will have no incentive to curb them.

Implacable enemy not prospective peace partner

The Palestinian population is thus not some hapless victim of the terror groups, as some might suggest but the very crucible from which such groups have emerged. It has by its own hand, by its deeds and declarations, made it clear that it will not—except on some temporary, tactical basis –brook any manifestation of Jewish political independence/national sovereignty) “between the River and the Sea”.

At the end of the day, the clash between Jew and Arab over the Holy Land is a clash between two collectives. For the Jewish collective, the Palestinian collective is—and must be treated as it sees itself: An implacable enemy, not a prospective peace partner.

Accordingly, the conflict, as one between collectives cannot be individualized .One collective must emerge victorious, the other vanquished. Only then, after victory/defeat, can the issue of personal misfortune be addressed.

This, then, is the perspective in which Palestinian society must be placed—and the perspective from which the formulation of the Taylor Force Act be addressed.

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

Abating Abbas

May 4, 2017

Abating Abbas, Power LineScott Johnson, May 4, 2017

Palestinian Arabs lack a civic culture that would support a healthy regime and their political culture is, not surprisingly, sick. On the one hand, we have the colleagues and descendants of Yasser Arafat in Fatah. On the other hand, we have the genocidal maniacs of Hamas. As George Wallace might have put it, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.

Although Fatah and Hamas are themselves profoundly undemocratic, they seem roughly to reflect Palestinian public opinion. Thus the depressing survey data that Daniel Polisar has recounted at Mosaic in recent essays here and here.

Khaled Abu Toameh is the respected Arab Israeli based in Jerusalem (and certainly the bravest journalist I have ever met). As he put it in a column for the Gatestone Institute: “Palestinians: The message remains no and no.”

One symptom of the sickness that permeates their politics: under Palestinian laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013, Palestinian and Israeli Arabs who are convicted of attacks in Israel (“participation in the struggle against the occupation”) are entitled to monthly “salaries” commencing with their arrest (and continuing for life for men who serve at least five years and women who serve at least two), along with additional cash grants and priority civil-service job placements upon their release.

Thane Rosenbaum summarizes the arrangements in a good Washington Post column:

In this lethal logic, the longer a prison sentence — really, the more deadly an attack — the more profitable the payout. Even toward the lower end of the scale, the salaries are more lucrative than most West Bank jobs. In accordance with Palestinian Authority Government Decision No. 32 of 2010, those imprisoned for three to five years, for instance, get $570 a month. And those committing crimes that result in prison sentences of at least 30 years receive salaries of more than $3,400 a month — 20 times the per capita income in the West Bank. Of course, some prisoners are sentenced to multiple life terms and will never be released. But those who are can expect a lump-sum payment of as much as $25,000 — like a bonus for bad behavior.

Palestinian officials show little compunction defending these practices. Killing Israelis is part of the popular resistance, and those who serve as “martyrs” should be compensated for their sacrifice. A spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs, Hassan Abd Rabbo, said that “it is the right of all of the prisoners and martyrs who have struggled and sacrificed for Palestine to receive their full salaries from the PA.” The Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, has stated that inmates are “prisoners of war” and that “their cause is the cause of all of us.”

Rosenbaum’s column goes into more detail on the legal incentives offered for the terrorist murder of Israelis.

What kind of a regime makes such arrangements? It is sick, sick, sick.

Rosenbaum comments: “[I]incentivizing the murder of civilians is barbarism, and it happens to offer a career path for ardent and enterprising Palestinians. The ‘lone wolves’ who perpetrate stabbings, shootings and car-rammings are not really acting alone — they are a people’s army recruited to kill by their government.”

Can we all get along? Answer: no.

Taylor Force is the former U.S. Army officer who was murdered while in a Vanderbilt University tour group last year in Jaffa. The terrorist attack that took his life left 10 others wounded. Rosenbaum’s column supports the Taylor Force Act that would put an end to American foreign supporting the Palestinian murder program. Along with Rosenbaum, Doug Feith and Sander Gerber support adoption of the bill in a NRO column that makes you wonder why it hasn’t happened long before now.

Foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority of course supports the murder program. As it has threatened their funding, Fatah officials have used their creativity to spring to its defense. At Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus reports: “Fatah is now arguing that donor countries should welcome the PA’s paying salaries to terrorists with their money, since this practice promotes peace by keeping the Palestinian terrorists from joining ‘ISIS or any other extremist party… [We] say to the donor states [whose money goes to terrorists] that your donations help the PA bring peace to the Middle East.’”

The antiwar movement fostered the slogan “kill for peace” as a gibe against the Pentagon back in the day. With a straight Palestinian spokesmen now offer a variant in support of their murder reward law.

UPDATE: As of this morning Itamar Marcus has added more here.