When Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced in July that he was canceling the P.A.’s security cooperation with Israel, veteran Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out that it was the 58th time Abbas had made such a threat. When Abbas issues his 59th threat, perhaps Israel should take him up on it.
Security cooperation is a cornerstone of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which have proven disastrous for Israel. Thousands of Israelis have been murdered in terrorist attacks as a result of this misguided effort.
According to the Social Security 2007 “Civilian Casualties of Acts of Hatred” document, the average number of Israeli fatalities due to terrorist attacks before the accords was 12.5 per year. After the accords, that figure shot up to 106 per year.
Maybe it’s time to begin to phase out these horrendous agreements and work towards a better solution for both Palestinians and Israelis.
One potential solution is to find a way of transitioning to working directly with local Palestinian community leadership, bypassing the P.A. on security and other matters. P.A. security forces can ultimately be supervised locally.
This is not a new idea. Prior to Oslo, this was the Israeli military’s recommended plan, but at the time neither the Israeli nor the American governments were supportive.
The P.A.’s security budget is more than $1 billion a year, which includes salaries for an estimated 35,000 to 42,000 security personnel in more than half a dozen organizations. The P.A. leads the world in security personnel per residents (only the Vatican and a few islands have higher ratios). Moreover, while the P.A.’s security cooperation with Israel has saved some lives, according to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitoring project there are serious issues with the P.A.’s record on human rights.
Of significant concern, for example, is the P.A.’s policy of imprisoning those publicly critical of the P.A. leadership. In addition, $300 million per year, or 7 percent to 10 percent, or the P.A.’s annual budget, is spent in stipends to terrorists in Israeli prisons, and to the families of terrorists that died in attacks against Israel.
Further P.A. funding goes to support the salary of many Muslim preachers, or imams. Their Friday sermons are often based on P.A.-provided talking points, and their incitement can lead to murder. Even the United Nations has voiced concerns about hate speech emanating from P.A. leadership, and about that hate speech finding its way into school textbooks.
Here are several other reasons to support the idea of phasing out the P.A.:
The idea of a singular Palestinian people is a recently created one. Culturally, those who live in Hebron have little in common with, and little affection for, those who live in Ramallah. The same is true for each of the major enclaves throughout Judea and Samaria.
According to former U.S. Pentagon adviser on Islamic affairs Harold Rhode, the families of one city in Judea and Samaria will not let their children marry those from another city in Judea and Samaria, so high is the contempt with which they view each other. Their family connections are with sister cities directly east in Jordan, not with cities in Judea and Samaria.
Mordechai Kedar, a noted Israeli expert on Islamic culture, is advocating for a demilitarized “Palestinian emirates” concept for this exact reason. He notes that that the place of greatest peace and stability in the Middle East is where each tribe governs itself; i.e., the United Arab Emirates.
One would think that because of the P.A.’s ability to attract billions in aid, important infrastructure projects and parks would be built and hence they would be well supported by the Palestinian people. Yet recent polls by the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) show that a whopping 81 percent of Palestinians do not trust the P.A. government.
Other polls indicate that almost two-thirds want Abbas to resign. Abbas, who is 14 years into a four-year term, has a reported net worth of more than $100 million (according to Muhammad Rashid, head of the Palestinian Investment Fund). “Castles” dot Judea and Samaria where the Palestinian leadership lives. Abbas recently purchased a $50 million airplane and was building a $17.5 million home on a palatial estate, with four stories and two helicopter pads, until the “Palestinian street” erupted. Following the “eruption” the P.A. leadership decided the estate would serve as a library.
Finally, underlying the territorial dispute between Israel and the Palestinians there is a religious dispute. The Koran calls for advancing Muslim law around the world. Israel was, for a time, under Muslim law, and now is not. This is forbidden in Islam.
At the same time, Muslim leaders respect strength and religious Jews who understand their culture and speak their language. If there were some level of local stability, there might be a chance for dialogue among local religious leaders. For example, in Hebron, there is an occasional spark of such discussion between religious Jews and religious Muslims. There is little chance of any type of dialogue, however, when the P.A. leadership incentivizes the killing of Jews and maintains a singular focus on destroying the Jewish state.
Both Arabs and Jews stand to gain much by Israel transitioning to a different peace partner; namely the individual cities of Judea and Samaria. Working directly with local leaders instead of the P.A. could be the first step. So the next time Abbas proposes canceling security cooperation, and hence the Oslo Accords, perhaps we should agree with him and pursue a more viable alternative.
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based natural resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.