Posted tagged ‘Peace Process’

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.

Crossing the Rubicon

August 27, 2017

Crossing the Rubicon, Israel Hayom, Sarah N. Stern, August 27, 2017

On Wednesday, at a U.S. State Department press briefing, the Rubicon was finally crossed. Responding to a question regarding Israeli-Palestinian ‎peace, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “We want to work toward a peace that both sides can agree to and both sides find ‎sustainable. … We believe that both parties should be able to find a workable solution that works for ‎both of them. We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. … It’s been many, many decades, ‎as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and ‎sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work through that.”‎

This is the most constructive statement I have heard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades. ‎For the last several years, the “experts” have been saying, “We all know what a solution to the ‎Palestinian-Israeli conflict looks like.”

If anyone ever took the time to listen to the parties themselves, and examine the cultural context in ‎which these words are spoken, they would immediately understand that the single most critical litmus ‎test for determining a negotiating partner’s real intentions is not what they say to visiting diplomats ‎and journalists in English, but what they say among themselves in their own language, and in particular, what they ‎teach their children. ‎

According to John Calvin (formerly “Jonaid Salameh,” before his conversion to Christianity), an EMET fellow who was born in Nablus, from the very earliest age, he ‎was taught there would not be two states, but one state called Palestine. An important slogan on everyone’s tongue in the disputed territories is “Lama neharherah,” meaning “When we free ‎it” — and “it” is all of Israel.

Calvin told me ‎that this belief is a certainty, that the average Palestinian feels it is destiny that eventually all of the ‎land will be free of Jews.‎

Surah 8, verse 38 of the Quran says, “Tell the unbelievers that if they desist from evil, their past shall be forgiven and if they revert to their past ways, then it is well known what happened with the people of the past.” According to Calvin, the interpretation is clear: There should ‎be conflict until all worship is only to Allah.

Part of this cultural context implies a different meaning of the word “peace.” Accepting the existence ‎of the other on their own terms is incompatible with true Islamic thought. Islam is a religion of ‎conquest.‎

Says Calvin, “The conception of peace, as we know it in the West, simply does not exist within Islam. ‎There can be a “hudna,” a temporary cessation of war, but only to regroup. Islam means total ‎submission, or surrender, and a permanent peace can only happen when the entire world surrenders ‎to Islamic rule. There is that sort of messianic concept of peace, but only after the entire world submits ‎to Islamic rule.”‎

Many individual Muslims, particularly in places like Indonesia, Pakistan and India, where Arabic is not the ‎native tongue, may not understand the Quran in a literal sense, and thus, may not hold these sort of ‎hegemonic beliefs.‎

Most Americans, including many so-called “experts” in the field, have no idea of the cultural context with which ‎they are dealing when they set out to solve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.‎

In former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life,” he describes how profoundly disappointed he had been with then-PLO Chairman ‎Yasser Arafat after generous offers were made to the Palestinian leader by Prime ‎Minister Ehud Barak in the Camp David negotiations. Arafat did not respond in the affirmative or the ‎negative, but simply walked away from the table. His response came several months later, in the ‎form of the Second Intifada.

In a moving chapter, Clinton describes how, just as he was about to leave office, ‎Arafat called him up and told him he was a great man.‎

“Mr. Chairman,” Clinton replied, “I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one.”

It obviously has been more important for Arafat, as well as his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, who turned down an ‎even more generous offer from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to continue the struggle then to arrive at a permanent ‎peace.‎

For decades, too many Western leaders and diplomats have tried to impose a solution that ‎looks ideal when viewed through Western lenses. ‎

These statesmen, however, do not have to be there on the ground when the maximalist offers are ‎walked away from, and the inevitable violence ensues. ‎

Thank you, Heather Nauert, for taking us a bit closer to reality.‎

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C.‎

Countering contemptuous Palestinians

July 28, 2017

Countering contemptuous Palestinians, Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg, July 28, 2017

(In the present environment, “two state solution” would a precursor to the death of Israel. — DM)

Israel should unsheathe its sovereign power and put the extremists down; decisive action that one day might allow for Palestinian moderates to emerge.

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The Palestinian Authority and its fiendish intra-Palestinian Islamic rivals seem hellbent on brinkmanship; on being belligerent adversaries with escalating, maximalist demands of Israel.

They really think they can roll Israel back by recourse to street brawls and international courts; by browbeating Israel through aggression, isolation and criminalization; by demonizing Israel with outrageous lies like “Al-Aqsa is in danger.” They think they can conduct guerilla and diplomatic warfare against Israel with impunity.

It’s time to disabuse Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and these gangs of such delusion, through resolute Israeli action.

The holy war over the Temple Mount that Abbas is promoting tells Israelis that Palestinian society has gone crazy-radical-rogue Islamic — just like much of the Arab Middle East. This spells the end of the two-state solution as Israelis (and most Western policymakers) understood it. Because the one thing that Israel absolutely cannot countenance is the emergence of a madcap Islamic caliphate in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

Sinai-stan, Hamas-stan, Hezbollah-stan, and Syria-stan already have emerged on Israel’s southern and northern borders. This is more than enough for Israel to handle. A Pales-stan on Israel’s eastern border would be unbearable. Israel can’t and won’t let it rise.

The only Palestinian state in the West Bank that Israelis ever contemplated was a mature entity willing to reconcile ideologically with Israel, leading to the reasonable sharing of land, airspace, natural resources, and historical and religious sites.

The sharing includes the Temple Mount. Indeed, for there to be peace, Jewish prayer would have to be facilitated on the Temple Mount, alongside the prayers of other faith-traditions.

Alas, Abbas has made it clear that the Palestinian national movement is far from understanding this.

The only Palestinian state that Israelis ever envisioned would not threaten Israel’s security, obviously. This means that it would be truly demilitarized with Israeli supervision on all borders and at all holy places. It would not form hostile foreign alliances or allow radical Islamic groups to dictate the internal agenda. It would not rev up violent insurrection when it has a difference of opinion about management of a city or holy site.

Alas, Abbas has made it clear that the Palestinian national movement is far from accepting this.

The only Palestinian state that Israelis ever thought of tolerating in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would declare a permanent end to the conflict and all claims against Israel. This means recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and recognizing ancient Jerusalem as its capital. It means renouncing the so-called right of refugee return, and inculcating respect, not anti-Semitism, on Palestinians airwaves and in Palestinian schools.

Alas, Abbas has made it clear that the Palestinian national movement is far from internalizing this.

On the contrary, Abbas has made it clear that the Palestinian liberation movement will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state nor forgo refugee return. In other words, he wants his state, but without an end to the conflict. He seems to want a Palestinian state to continue the conflict.

Professor Ahmad Khalidi, a Palestinian ideologue close to Abbas, scorns the two-state solution as a “sovereign cage.” “The concept of Palestinian statehood is nothing but a punitive construct devised by our worst enemies — the United States and Israel — to constrain Palestinian aspirations and territorial ambitions,” he has written.

Until now, Israeli governments have sought to co-opt Palestinian leaders into peace and to mollify Palestinian masses through compromise and concession, including the provision of Israeli money, guns, water, electricity and many aspects of national sovereignty.

This could have been a path to enhanced Palestinian national power in cooperation with Israel. But the kleptocratic Palestinian Authority has pocketed these goodies without showing any true willingness to meet Israeli needs and expectations.

As a result, tactical Israeli restraint, like the decision to retreat from justified security measures at the Temple Mount, comes off as capitulation to Palestinian terrorism. It reinforces the rejectionist and triumphalist Palestinian narrative. It looks and smells like appeasement.

Winston Churchill warned that “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” So it’s time for a different strategy. Palestinian overreach and superciliousness should be countered by strong Israeli and international countermeasures.

Palestinian leadership must be disabused of the notion that it can drive Israel off the Temple Mount and out of east Jerusalem by violence, or coerce Israel into withdrawals by appealing to international tribunals.

This will require perseverance and the flexing of muscle.

To begin with, Israel can stop doing favors for the Palestinian Authority like absorbing its mushrooming debt for electricity and fuel, or selling it water at discount prices. Then Israel should stop facilitating the business interests of Abbas’ cronies, whose cartels control the Palestinian economy. The international donor community, too, might usefully rethink the huge sums of cash it pours into Abbas’ coffers every year.

Then Israel can and should revoke the VIP permits that allow Abbas and his ministers to fly in and out of Ben-Gurion International Airport on their luxury private jets. Let them beg King Abdullah in Amman for travel privileges.

Simultaneously, Israel should arrest the activities in east Jerusalem of rabble rousers like Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the former the grand mufti of Jerusalem and the lead agent in the city for Erdogan’s Turkey and the Moslem Brotherhood; Sheikh Issam Amira, the lead agent in the city for the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb ut-Tahrir); and Abbas’ handpicked henchmen, the intemperate Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein and the fanatic former chief justice of the PA’s religious court, Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamimi.

Their sermons, “charitable” enterprises and educational programs glorify terrorists and explicitly call for violent resistance to Israel. Their networks (along with Fatah social media) also are the source for the libel that Al-Aqsa mosque is at risk.

It’s also not too hard to arrest 2,000 of their key street activists — those leading the riots in the city.

Israel should unsheathe its sovereign power and put the extremists down; decisive action that one day might allow for Palestinian moderates to emerge.

David M. Weinberg (www.davidmweinberg.com) is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks

July 20, 2017

State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks, Washington Free Beacon, , July 20, 2017

(Who the @#$$$* is in charge of American foreign policy? The President or “his” Secretary of State? If Secretary Tillerson approved this, he must go. Now. — DM)

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19 / Getty Images

Regional organizations monitoring the situation routinely cite the Palestinian Authority and its senior officials as calling for violence against Israel and glorifying past terror acts.

Palestinian television programs also promote violence against Israel and Jews, with some aimed at children promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian government also uses U.S. taxpayer aid to pay salaries to one-time terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. This issue has become a particular sticking point in peace talks with Israel, and Congress is currently considering legislation that could cut all aid to the PA until it formally ends this terror payment policy.

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The State Department is facing harsh criticism for claiming in an official report that Israel is to blame for terrorism attacks committed by Palestinians and accusing the Jewish state of being largely responsible for an impasse in peace negotiations, according to a leading member of Congress who is calling on the State Department to correct its “inaccurate and harmful” characterization of Israel.

The State Department, in its latest annual report on the global terrorism situation, blames Israeli security policies for stalling the peace process and claims that Palestinians rarely incite terror attacks.

The claims are coming under fierce criticism from pro-Israel advocates and have prompted one leading member of Congress to formally call on the Trump administration to amend the report to more accurately reflect the situation.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R. Ill.), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, criticized the latest report in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and called on the administration to immediately amend it to portray Palestinian terror attacks as a primary reason for the impasse in peace talks.

The State Department’s current characterization, Roskam claims, is harmful to Israel and likely to impede efforts by the Trump administration to renew peace talks.

“The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism,” Roskam wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. “This report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism.”

“Most egregiously,” Roskam adds, “it portrays the PA as innocent peacemakers far removed from being the source of terrorist activity.”

The State Department characterizes Palestinian calls for terrorism and violence against Israel as “rare,” stating: “Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the [Palestinian Authority] of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.”

“This assertion is demonstrably false,” Roskam writes. “The PA does not only tolerate terrorist attacks against Israelis but it also incites, rewards, and memorializes those who carry out these horrific attacks.”

Regional organizations monitoring the situation routinely cite the Palestinian Authority and its senior officials as calling for violence against Israel and glorifying past terror acts.

Palestinian television programs also promote violence against Israel and Jews, with some aimed at children promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian government also uses U.S. taxpayer aid to pay salaries to one-time terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. This issue has become a particular sticking point in peace talks with Israel, and Congress is currently considering legislation that could cut all aid to the PA until it formally ends this terror payment policy.

In late 2015, during a massive wave of Palestinian terrorism, attackers carried out 181 stabbing attacks on Israelis, 159 shooting, and 60 vehicular ramming attacks, which called more than 50 Israelis and injured nearly 1,000.

Roskam notes this statistic in his letter to Tillerson.

“I write to express my concern about numerous mischaracterizations found in the 2016 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, which undermine the prospect for Israeli-Palestinian peace and wrongly blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians,” Roskam writes.

“At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership directly incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out, terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis,” the letter states. “In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause—PA leadership.”

Roskam calls on the Trump administration “to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence—PA leadership, and clarify the longstanding issue of Palestinian support for terrorism as the leading impediment to Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

One senior Congressional source tracking the situation told the Free Beacon that the State Department’s findings are appalling to Israel supporters.

“It is unacceptable that the State Department ignores PA-backed terrorism,” the source said, adding that Congress is working hard to pass legislation cutting off U.S. aid until the Palestinians cease paying terrorists.

“The State Department should be working to do the same,” the source said. “They can begin by correctly reporting the source of Palestinian terrorism—government-led incitement and policies that rewards terrorists.”

Peace is light-years away

July 14, 2017

Peace is light-years away, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, July 14, 2017

(Israel: give, give, give. Palestinians: take, take, take. But no peace. — DM)

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

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If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had invested as much time, energy and ‎other people’s money in building a flourishing society as they do in the pursuit of ‎death and destruction, there would be no need for outside efforts to broker ‎peace between them and their Israeli counterparts. It takes only about 30 minutes ‎to drive from the Muqataa compound in Ramallah to the Prime Minister’s Office in ‎Jerusalem. Yet it is still easier for dignitaries from the United States and Europe to ‎spend hours on flights to Tel Aviv for the purpose of talking about a two-state ‎solution than it is for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to budge in any direction ‎other than backwards. ‎

Take this week, for instance, which began with the Palestinians’ refusal to host ‎U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — whom U.S. President Donald Trump ‎has included in his Mideast peacemaking team, along with advisers Jason ‎Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — in Ramallah. Friedman is too pro-Israel, as far as ‎Abbas is concerned. As a result, the meeting between American and Palestinian ‎officials on Tuesday took place at the King David Hotel in west Jerusalem. ‎

On Thursday, Greenblatt joined fellow envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the ‎U.S. (which he represents), the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — ‎in Jerusalem “to discuss current efforts to advance Middle East peace, as well as ‎the deteriorating situation in Gaza.”‎

Also on Thursday, Greenblatt announced that Israel had agreed to sell the PA 1.2 ‎billion cubic feet of water. This, he said, in addition to an electricity deal reached ‎between Israel and the PA on Monday, will improve the Palestinians’ standard of ‎living.‎

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations ‎Committee conducted a hearing on the proposed Taylor Force Act, named after ‎the former U.S. Army officer who — while on a trip to Israel in March 2016 — was ‎stabbed to death by a knife-wielding Palestinian on a rampage in Tel Aviv. The bill, ‎co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dan Coats (R-‎Ind.) and Roy Blunt (R-Miss.), aims to halt American aid to the PA until it ‎stops paying salaries and stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of ‎those “martyred” while murdering Israelis. ‎

Testifying before the committee on behalf of the bill, Senior Fellow for Middle ‎Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Elliott Abrams — who served as ‎deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the ‎George W. Bush administration — railed against the “Palestinian practice of ‎making payments to individuals convicted of acts of terror, and their families or ‎survivors, in accordance with the severity of their acts and the length of their ‎sentences.” The “predictable effect of this practice,” he said, “is to reward and ‎incentivize acts of terror.”‎

Pointing to the billions of dollars that the U.S. has poured into the PA since its ‎establishment in the 1990s, Abrams said, “As long as the Palestinian government ‎is in effect rewarding terror, we need to be sure we make our objections — our ‎condemnation — known, and that cannot be merely in words. Our assistance ‎program must reflect our feeling of repugnance.” He then proposed a revision to ‎the bill that would enable the U.S. to continue funding hospitals and other ‎projects that benefit the Palestinian people, while preventing the money from ‎lining the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.‎

Whether this carrot-and-stick approach to the PA was purposeful or inadvertent ‎is unclear. What is certain, however, is that the PA president is not turning over a ‎new leaf. Earlier this month, as Palestinian Media Watch reported, Abbas ‎was quoted on Fatah’s official Facebook page as proclaiming: “Even if I have to ‎leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary of a martyr or a prisoner, ‎as I am the president of the entire Palestinian people, including the prisoners, the ‎martyrs, the injured, the expelled and the uprooted.”‎

This sentiment was echoed recently by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. ‎Hamdallah — who launched the first-ever Palestinian-owned power substation in ‎Jenin with Israeli National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister ‎Yuval Steinitz on Monday, and signed the electricity deal touted by Greenblatt — ‎vowed last month to continue rewarding terrorists.‎

On June 16, according to PMW, the official PA newspaper quoted Hamdallah ‎announcing: “On behalf of … Abbas and our Palestinian people, I salute all of the ‎martyrs’ families … [and] emphasize to them that their rights are protected. … We ‎remember the sacrifices and struggle of the pure martyrs, guardians of the land ‎and identity, who have turned our people’s cause into a historical epic of struggle ‎and resolve.”‎

Hamdallah’s reassurance came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Rex ‎Tillerson’s claim that the PA’s “intent is to cease the payments to the families of ‎those who have committed murder or violence against others.” Ironically, both ‎Israeli and Palestinian officials were incensed by the statement, and Tillerson was ‎forced to modify it. Washington and Ramallah — he said the following day — are ‎engaged in an “active discussion” on the matter.‎

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

Ramallah may be a mere 10 miles from Jerusalem, but it — ‎like peace — is light-years away.‎

Trump’s productive Middle East failure

June 30, 2017

Trump’s productive Middle East failure, Israel Hayom, Jonathan S. Tobin, June 30, 2017

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

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It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. The chance of U.S. President Donald Trump achieving a breakthrough in Middle East peace that had eluded all his ‎predecessors was always slim. But reports about Palestinian Authority President ‎Mahmoud Abbas yelling at presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during ‎their meeting last week may signal that the Trump initiative is over even ‎before it begins.‎

The president’s critics should acknowledge that even if the effort was ‎bound to end in failure, it nevertheless points toward the only way peace can be ‎achieved. By focusing on the Palestinians’ willingness to foment and subsidize ‎terror, the U.S. has exposed a key problem that the Obama administration ignored. ‎Rather than this obstructing peace, it is an important step without ‎which genuine progress toward ending the conflict will be impossible.‎

The meeting between Kushner and Abbas went badly. The Palestinians were ‎shocked that Kushner followed up on the key sticking point that had arisen ‎between Trump and the Palestinian leader during their two meetings in May. ‎Abbas claimed during their first encounter in the White House that the PA was not ‎engaging in incitement to hatred against Israelis and that it did not pay salaries or ‎pensions to terrorists and their families. By the time they met again, Trump had ‎learned that Abbas had lied to him about both issues and reportedly pounded the ‎table as he demanded that the Palestinian leader end these practices.‎

But when Kushner and chief U.S. peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt raised the issue ‎again with Abbas, the Palestinians were angry. As far as Abbas ‎was concerned, the Americans were merely relaying a list of demands from Israeli ‎Prime Minister Netanyahu, when Abbas had been expecting to hear about American ‎positions on “core issues of the conflict,” by which he meant strategies to stop ‎Israel from building in the West Bank and push it back to the 1967 ‎borders.‎

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

The administration denies reports that it is considering backing away from the ‎push for negotiations. But the president may realize that his statement after his ‎first meeting with Abbas, in which he claimed that Middle East peace “is not as ‎difficult as most people thought,” was more than premature. ‎

While few thought his willingness to prioritize the peace process was likely to be ‎rewarded with success, his thinking that the time is ripe for a breakthrough was rational. With Sunni Arab states now looking at Israel as an ally against the ‎threat from Iran, it was reasonable to suppose that this confluence of ‎interests might result in an effort to pressure the Palestinians to settle their dispute ‎with Israel.

However, the theory that the Palestinians can be either pushed or ‎bribed by the Saudis into making peace is now being called into doubt.‎

As long as the Palestinians cling to the idea that their national identity is inextricably tied up with the ‎century-long war on Zionism, peace will remain a pipe dream. Neither Trump’s threats ‎nor the efforts of the Saudis are likely to persuade them to abandon a political ‎culture in which incitement and pensions for terrorists — on which they have ‎lavished more than $1.1 billion in just the last four years — are seen as laudable. ‎Trump is asking Abbas for something he cannot do and still ‎survive in power.‎

But with Congress looking to tie his hands by considering legislation that would ‎end U.S. aid unless the Palestinians stop the terror payments, Trump may not be ‎willing to let this issue drop. If so, his efforts won’t lead to the “ultimate deal” he ‎longs to broker, but it will lay the foundation for more realism about the peace ‎process. It will also put the Palestinians on ‎notice about what they must do if they genuinely want a two-state solution.‎

Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for ‎National Review. 

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting

June 24, 2017

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting, Jerusalem Post, Asser Okbi/ Maariv Haskavua, Jpost.Com Staff, June 24, 2017

(“Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side. . . ” After the Obama administration, he must be shocked. — DM)

Abbas and Kushner. (photo credit:REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.

The report claimed that Trump is to determine the future of reigniting Mideast peace talks in the near future, including  the possibility of withdrawing completely from the process.

The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.

Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.

Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side and refused to commit to the request.

The report claims that the Trump administration was equally upset with Abbas after he failed to denounce the latest stabbing attack in Jerusalem, leaving 23-year-old St.-Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka brutally stabbed to death in a terror attack last week. Ties were further strained after Abbas reportedly refused to meet  American ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The Palestinian official also told the paper that the Americans demanded Palestinian officials curb inflammatory statements regarding Israel.

“(Kushner) will submit his report to the president and, after it is submitted, Trump will decide if there’s a chance for negotiations or it might be preferable to pull out peace talks,” the official said.

Abbas claimed that Israel is using the issue of payments to terrorists and their families as a pretext to avoid entering peace-talks, saying that the payments are a part of the Palestinian government’s “social responsibility.”