Is the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s policy of paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families finally starting to backfire? Or, can PA President Mahmoud Abbas continue selling the line that the PA raises its children in a “culture of peace”?
And what affect will these factors have on U.S. President Donald Trump’s vows to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal?
At time of writing, Trump is fighting allegations of obstruction of justice after fired FBI director James Comey told an extraordinary Senate hearing that the president attempted to derail an FBI inquiry into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his inappropriate contact with Russia.
So, it may be a while before Trump returns to tackling a peace deal he has said “is not as difficult as people have thought.”
But, assuming he survives the latest challenge to his disastrous presidency, Trump will be unable to resist the urge to succeed where other U.S. presidents and world leaders and international pressure have failed miserably.
Abbas went on a charm offensive when he visited the White House in early May. In their joint White House news conference, he assured Trump that “we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren, on a culture of peace.”
But Israel’s Channel 2, citing an unnamed U.S. source, says that Trump yelled at Abbas during their meeting in Bethlehem later in the month.
“You tricked me in D.C.!” Trump is alleged to have shouted at a shocked Abbas.
“You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel].”
Recent developments suggest the world is catching on to the PA’s antics.
The PA minister of finance has admitted that foreign aid has dropped by 70 per cent since Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) – www.palwatch.org – started publicizing the issue of terrorist salaries in 2011.
In April, the PA cut salaries to its employees in Gaza, but maintained the salaries of terrorist prisoners and released terrorists.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham has reintroduced legislation to cut U.S. finding to the PA if it continues paying those salaries.
Israel may follow suit. A government committee has approved preliminary reading of a bill calling for withholding about a billion shekels (C$380 million) from the tax revenues it collects for the PA – about equivalent to the amount the PA disbursed in “martyr pay” in 2016.
PMW reports that the governments of Norway and Denmark have asked the PA to return money they donated to a youth centre for women after PMW revealed that it was named for arch-terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. She led a 1978 bus hijacking in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were murdered.
Even the UN, which usually turns a blind eye to the PA’s antics, rejected the choice of name as “wrong and unacceptable.”
Days after sending a message to Israelis at a Tel Aviv demonstration for a two-state solution that the PA’s hand was “extended in peace,” Abbas approved the appointment of Karim Younes, an Israeli Arab serving a 40-year sentence for kidnapping and murdering an Israeli soldier, to his Fatah party’s ruling Central Committee.
As foreign funding is declining, the PA is scrambling for reasons to justify its terror promotion and terrorist salaries.
The most ludicrous argument was voiced by Fatah Central Committee Member and Commissioner of International Relations Rawhi Fattouh.
In a statement published on Falestinona, a Lebanese Fatah website, he argued that paying salaries to terrorists prevents them from turning “to ISIS or any other extremist party.”
Under this logic, foreign donors “help the PA bring peace to the Middle East.”
Fattouh said that countries that suspend aid “must bear the consequences,” presumably a deadlier form of terror.
Moves to dramatically reduce U.S. foreign aid to the PA usually get vetoed or watered down for fear of destabilizing the Abbas regime and empowering Hamas.
In hopes of advancing the peace process, Trump has already backed down on his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Is he angry enough to sanction the PA for its terrorist salaries and other incitement? Or will he follow his predecessors’ lead and opt for appeasement?
“I never get too attached to one deal or one approach,” Trump wrote in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal.
“I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”
The president may need to brush up on his juggling skills to get this deal done.