On Feb. 27, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding the suspension of a U.S. State Department grant that was awarded to Fares Al Arab for Development and Charity Works in Gaza due to the group’s ties to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organizations.
The State Department gave Fares Al Arab a $41,213 grant for “Developing Palestinian Journalists’ English Skills.” But as The Washington Free Beacon reported, Fares Al Arab issued a grant “to a radio network run by the Islamic Jihad … , honored a self-described journalist who belonged to the PFLP, hosted a press freedom event that featured a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad, and co-led a human rights training course with a convicted terrorist.”
Issa demanded that by March 10, the State Department explain if it “knew the history of the group’s ties to terrorism,” “why the grant was provided if the history was known” and provide a complete accounting for the State Department’s decision to award Fares Al Arab the grant.
The State Department’s funding of Fares Al Arab is a big deal in and of itself. But this week it became clear that it isn’t a fluke. The full expanse of the Biden administration’s policy towards Palestinian terrorists and Israel became clear this week during U.S. Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr’s visit to Israel and Jordan.
Amr’s first stop this week was Aqaba, Jordan. On Sunday, Amr participated in a summit hosted by the Hashemite regime between senior officials from Israel, Jordan, the U.S., Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The summit, whose stated goal was to “calm” the security situation in the P.A. and Israel, took place as the newest round of the Palestinian jihad against the Jewish state and its Jewish citizens went into high gear. In the month preceding the summit, Palestinian terrorists murdered 10 Israelis and wounded several more. Three more have been killed since.
On Sunday evening, Israel’s Channel 14 revealed that the summit’s agenda was a U.S. security “plan” to tamp down terrorist violence—and Israeli counterterror operations in Judea and Samaria. Among other things, the U.S. proposal entails a massive increase in the number of U.S.-trained Palestinian security personnel. The Biden administration wishes to provide 5,000 Palestinians with commando training in Jordan and then deploy them to northern Samaria, and perhaps the South Hebron Hills—both major nodes of Palestinian terrorist activity.
The U.S. proposal would also require Israel to sharply curtail IDF counterterror operations. It foresees the deployment of foreign forces, including U.S. military forces, on the ground. The ostensible purpose of those forces would be to separate Palestinians from Israelis. In practice, such a deployment would pit U.S. and other forces against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians on behalf of the Palestinians.
Among the many alarming aspects of the U.S. plan is the fact that it ignores completely the direct involvement of Palestinian forces in terrorist attacks. During the course of the Palestinian terror war 20 years ago, U.S.-trained P.A. forces murdered 26 IDF soldiers in 2002 alone. The Palestinians learned how to use cell phones as remote detonation devices from their American trainers. Over the years, they have put that knowledge to use not to fight terror but to kill Israelis in terrorist attacks.
The P.A., whose forces the U.S. seeks to “empower,” is controlled by the Fatah terror group. P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas is the chairman of Fatah. Fatah terrorists carried out most of the murderous terror attacks in 2021-2022. Several of those attacks were carried out by P.A. security officers.
On Jan. 1, at the P.A.’s official Fatah Day celebration in Ramallah, the guest of honor was Fathi Azzam. Azzam is a former colonel in the U.S.-supported Palestinian National Security Forces, the armed group the U.S. intends to transform into the Palestinian army. Azzam was celebrated because his son Raad murdered two Israelis at a Tel Aviv pub last April and his other son Abd was killed along with a P.A. security officer in the course of a gunfight with IDF soldiers in Jenin last September. In the weeks before he was killed, Abd carried out several shooting attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians.
The message of the U.S. plan that Amr and his colleagues presented at Aqaba is straightforward. As far as the Biden administration is concerned, Israel is the rogue actor in the neighborhood and the Palestinian terror-soaked security forces are America’s partner, not in fighting terrorism so much as in undermining Israeli counterterror operations.
While Amr and his colleagues were reading Israel the riot act in Aqaba, Palestinian terrorists in the northern Samaria terror hub of Huwara murdered two brothers, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv. The Yaniv brothers were executed in a rain of bullets while they were stuck at a roadblock.
The attack was eminently predictable. In the month leading up to their murder, Palestinians carried out an average of two-three rock and Molotov cocktail attacks a day against Israeli cars in Huwara and on the Gilad route leading into the village.
The worst Palestinian terror attack in recent weeks was the Sabbath massacre of seven Israelis in Jerusalem as they left prayer services on Jan. 27. The day after the attack, Huwara held an official celebration of the slaughter replete with fireworks. Footage of the event was posted on Huwara’s Facebook page.
Following the murder of the Yaniv brothers, Huwara residents celebrated by handing out sweets. Among those celebrating was the owner of a car and spare parts lot named Ayed Maharab. As the Kol Yehudi news agency reported, Maharab is a paroled terrorist who spent five years in prison. His Facebook page is filled with celebrations of terrorist attacks and of himself holding an AK-47. Maharab published a post following the Yaniv brothers’ murders celebrating the attack.
Due to massive pressure from Amr and his colleagues in the Biden administration, the IDF has avoided taking any major action against the now sprawling terrorist infrastructure in northern Samaria, including in Huwara. In the heat of the moment, following the murder of their friends and neighbors, a number of Israelis from surrounding villages entered Huwara and committed egregious acts of vigilante violence. Among other things, they burned Maharab’s car lot.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich lives near Huwara. He reportedly passed through the location of the Yaniv brothers’ execution just moments before it occurred. Following the attack, Smotrich seethed that Huwara should be “wiped out.”
Certainly, Smotrich’s statement was wrong. But anyone even minimally sympathetic to Israel or more generally, towards a society in the middle of a major terror onslaught, would cut him some slack. That is, while you would distance yourself from the sentiment, you would understand the distress at its source and give Smotrich some credit, particularly when he apologized.
That’s not what the Biden administration did though. Instead, State Department Spokesman Ned Price “condemned” Smotrich’s “irresponsible, repugnant and disgusting, provocative remarks.” Price accused Smotrich of “incitement of violence,” and demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn Smotrich. The administration also announced that it will boycott Smotrich when he comes to Washington next week for the annual Israel Bonds conference.
Price demanded that Israel round up and prosecute the perpetrators and indemnify the victims.
This brings us to Amr’s second stop on his trip. On Monday, Amr visited Huwara. He didn’t visit the site of the terror attack against the Yaniv brothers. He didn’t pay his respects to the Yaniv family. Amr didn’t even condemn their murder. Instead, as the U.S. Embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Department’s Twitter page reported, Amr “visited with the [Palestinian] victims of Sunday’s Huwara attack. He expressed his deepest condolences and condemned the unacceptable widescale, indiscriminate violence by setters.”
Amr had his picture taken at Maharab’s burned-down car lot.
At Aqaba, Amr and his associates reinstated the Biden administration’s demand that Israel permit them to open a consulate in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. The fact that such a move would effectively abrogate U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital city doesn’t bother Amr or his colleagues.
On Tuesday, Amr visited Jerusalem and went to Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. He didn’t meet with any rabbis though.
Amr had his picture taken outside of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The post under the photo on his Twitter page reads, “Special Rep. Amr met with Sheikh Azzam, Director of the Islamic Waqf, to discuss preparations for a peaceful Ramadan reflecting the spirit of the Holy Month and to reiterate the U.S. commitment to the historic status quo.”
“Sheikh Azzam” is Azzam al-Khatib, the director of the Jordanian Waqf Islamic trust, which by agreement with Israel runs the mosques on the Temple Mount. If Amr is interested in a “peaceful Ramadan,” his choice to meet with al-Khatib was a strange one.
In November 2021, the Kol Hayehudi news service reported how in August 2021, the Waqf’s website posted photos from the graduation ceremony of 68 women from a four-year course titled “The Fortress Battalion of Strength.” The course trained women to serve in the Mourabitoun, a Hamas-controlled group of women who among other things harass police and Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount.
The course was co-directed by al-Khatib’s deputy Najah Bahirat and Sheikh Fadi Abu Shahidam. Abu Shahidam headed the Wafq’s Bait Pika al Aslamiya, a group that teaches Islamic Sharia law on the Temple Mount under the aegis of the Waqf’s Shariah Education Administration. The photos on the Waqf’s website showed al-Khatib sitting and standing next to Abu Shahidam.
Abu Shahidam came to the attention of the Israeli public three months after the course. On Nov. 21, Abu Shahidam murdered Eliyahu Kaye, 26, in a spray of bullets as the young man, who made aliyah from South Africa, was walking to his job as a tour guide at the Western Wall. Abu Shahidam was subsequently killed by Israeli police.
Following Abu Shahidam’s attack, Hamas released an official announcement identifying Abu Shahidam as its senior operative in Shuafat, Jerusalem. As the Kol Hayehudi agency reported, the police suspect that the entire course was a Hamas project. Bahirat, who has a long record of terror incitement in his sermons at Al-Aqsa, was arrested on terror charges a few days after his colleague Abu Shahidam murdered Kaye.
Abu Shahidam is far from the only Hamas operative who worked with al-Khatib.
In March 2022, the Jerusalem prosecution indicted a Waqf-controlled charitable group called Zakat al Quds, its director Khaled Sabah and two of his sons on terrorism charges. Zakat al Quds had its tax-exempt status and charitable status removed by the Knesset and the Registrar of Non-Profits after it was discovered that it is controlled by Hamas, operates as a Hamas recruitment organization and transfers funds to Hamas terrorists and the families of dead Hamas terrorists. In all, Zakat al Quds is accused of raising and transferring 27 million shekels (about $7.4 million) for Hamas.
Sabah began directing Zakat al Quds in 1994. In 2019, Sabah was appointed head of Hamas financial operations in Jerusalem by Hamas leadership in Turkey. In 2021, they promoted him to director of all Hamas operations in Jerusalem. Among other things, Sabah was charged by his commanders in Turkey with organizing all Hamas terror activities on the Temple Mount ahead of the month of Ramadan last year. He and his sons were charged with laundering 2.7 million shekels (around $740,000) for Hamas through their personal bank accounts in Israel and Turkey, and designating 360,000 shekels (some $98,000) for specifically terrorist purposes. The three men underwent weapons training in Turkey.
As the Kol Hayehudi news agency reported in April, the board of directors of Zakat al Quds are all heads of the Jordanian Waqf. The chairman of the board of directors, who holds power of attorney over its accounts and is responsible among other things for approving its financial records, is Omar Odallah al-Kiswani. Al-Kiswani is a senior Jordanian Waqf official and the director of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Incidentally, Zakat al Quds’s accountant from 2009 to 2021 was Esawi Freij. Freij resigned from his position in 2021 when as a senior lawmaker from the Meretz Party, he was appointed minister of regional cooperation in the Bennett-Lapid government.
According to Palestinian sources, Hady Amr’s visit this week to the Temple Mount marked a major shift in U.S. policy. Amr is the first U.S. official to carry out an official visit at the Temple Mount.
While Amr’s “Sheikh Azzam” isn’t directly implicated in any of the Hamas entities operating in the mosque, his web of ties to Hamas terrorists, including Kaye’s murderer, and Hamas’s central position in the Jordanian Waqf al-Khatib oversees, casts a dark shadow over Amr’s visit to the Temple Mount and over the Biden administration’s Israel-Palestinian policy that Amr leads.
None of Amr’s actions should come as a surprise to those who have followed his work over the years. Amr laid out his vision for U.S. policy in a paper he coauthored in 2018 for the Brookings Institution. In “Ending Gaza’s Perpetual Crisis: A New U.S. Approach,” Amr called for the United States to enable funding of Hamas entities by limiting the criminal consequences for U.S.-funded NGOs that work with those entities.
Amr also called for the U.S. to force Israel to stand down against Hamas by using a combination of direct pressure and European economic threats to compel Israel to cease fighting the terror group. Amr also called for the U.S. to support the establishment of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas along with Fatah.
In 2021, President Joe Biden appointed Amr to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and the Palestinians. Last year, Biden promoted Amr to his current position of special representative for Palestinian affairs. Judging from Amr’s actions this week in Aqaba, Huwara and Jerusalem, he has carte blanche to advance the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian terrorist vision he set out in his Brookings paper.
Issa’s letter to Blinken regarding the State Department-funded Hamas charity in Gaza exposed the tip of the iceberg. Amr exposed the iceberg itself this week. Under his leadership, the Biden administration has abandoned U.S. support for Israel in favor of support for Palestinian terrorists and their war against the Jewish state.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.