Palestinian leaders owe an apology to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, the two Arab countries that signed peace treaties with Israel three years ago. Then, the Palestinian Authority leadership strongly condemned the UAE and Bahrain, accusing them of “betraying” the Palestinian people. The Palestinians even recalled their ambassadors to the two countries and held a series of demonstrations to protest against the peace accords.
However, Palestinian leaders now seem to have a different view on a possible normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
According to some reports, Palestinian officials in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, have assured the United States that they will not oppose Saudi-Israeli normalization efforts, in the hope of receiving security, financial and political incentives from the Biden administration. The Media Line revealed on Sept. 4:
“U.S. diplomats have obtained assurances from Palestinian officials that they will neither publicly reject nor undermine the White House-promoted normalization talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“A diplomat from the U.S. State Department told The Media Line that the Palestinian Authority has pledged not to publicly criticize any potential normalization deal with Israel, to avoid embarrassing Saudi Arabia.”
According to other reports, Saudi Arabia, at the behest of the Biden administration, is offering to resume financial support to the Palestinian Authority as part of an attempt to win Palestinian backing for a normalization agreement with Israel. The idea to resume aid was first introduced by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an April meeting with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
P.A. officials held talks on Sept. 6 in Riyadh with Saudi counterparts on the proposed financial aid, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. The Palestinian officials also reportedly presented a list of demands to representatives of the Biden administration who arrived in Riyadh at the same time to discuss ways of promoting normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The Palestinian list of demands for not opposing a deal includes, among other things, resuming Saudi financial support to the P.A., which slowed from 2016 and stopped completely three years ago, to the tune of around $200 million per year, and transferring parts of the West Bank currently under full Israeli control to the governance of the P.A. The talk is about land in Area C of the West Bank, which, under the Oslo Accords, is exclusively controlled by Israel.
It appears, then, that Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration are offering a bribe to the Palestinians in return for their silence over a Saudi-Israeli deal. Washington seems desperate to achieve some kind of deal ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, presumably in the hope that it would boost President Joe Biden’s chances of being re-elected.
The Saudis, for their part, are apparently worried that they will look bad in the eyes of many Arabs if the Palestinians denounce them for signing a peace treaty with Israel— as they, the Saudis, denounced the UAE and Bahrain following the signing of the Abraham Accords. The last thing Mohammed bin Salman wants is to be accused of “betraying” the Palestinian cause. Undoubtedly, he would also not be happy to see his photos set on fire on the streets of Palestinian cities.
The Palestinian list of demands for refraining from condemning a Saudi-Israeli peace accord can be seen as tantamount to blackmail. The Palestinian leadership is telling the Saudis and Americans that if they want to avoid Palestinian condemnation, they must pay the price, in money and territory.
The Saudis are being asked to pay $200 million per year and the Americans, it appears, are expected to pressure—or blackmail—Israel into ceding control of more territory in the West Bank to Mahmoud Abbas’s P.A., in exchange for promises.
The Palestinian leaders will happily accept any additional land in the West Bank, but, as experience has shown, will do nothing to prevent these areas from becoming terror hubs.
Given the ongoing state of financial and administrative corruption in the P.A., there is every reason to doubt that the Saudi funds would be used to boost the Palestinian economy or improve the living conditions of the Palestinians.
According to a report published in 2013 by Middle East Monitor, a non-profit policy research institute that provides research, information and analyses of primarily the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:
“The corruption began from the first moment that the Palestinian Authority began to gather the Palestinian people’s money and aid and pour it into the [ruling] Fatah [faction] budget, even though this money was given to the Palestinian people, not the Palestinian Authority or its officials, who have divided it amongst themselves. The money that was meant for the establishment of a state quickly turned into balances in Swiss bank accounts, personal projects in neighboring countries and partnerships with Israeli companies….
“The circle involved in systematic corruption was made up of senior leaders in the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. The many scandals of such officials and those close to Abbas have been exposed and seen as symbols of financial and political corruption, nepotism, bribery, smuggling and theft.”
The Palestinian demand to expand their control to still more areas of the West Bank oddly comes amid an increase in Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. Most of these attacks originate from areas in the West Bank formally under the control of the P.A. and its security forces. Several terror militias and armed gangs are currently operating in the northern parts of the West Bank, while the P.A. is doing nothing to rein in the terrorists or prevent them from attacking Israeli civilians and soldiers.
The P.A., which has spectacularly failed to enforce law and order in areas under its control, is demanding that Israel now allow it to gain control over even more territory in the West Bank?
Any land handed over to the P.A. will end up in the hands of terrorists and armed gangsters. All one has to do is look at the situation in the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin. Although the two cities are controlled by the P.A., armed groups and terrorists continue to operate there freely and without fear. The terrorists there are carrying out attacks against Israelis on a daily basis, and the P.A. is not lifting a finger to stop them.
It is also worth noting that the last time Israel handed over land to Abbas and his P.A. was in 2005. Then, Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip after evacuating more than 9,000 Jews who were living there. A few months later, Hamas, the Iran-backed terror group, expelled the P.A. and seized control of the Gaza Strip.
Can the Biden administration or Mohammed bin Salman guarantee that land given to the P.A. in the West Bank would not fall into the hands of Hamas and other Iran-backed terror groups such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Can the Biden administration and the Saudis guarantee that the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Palestinians are demanding will not be pocketed by P.A. leaders? The answer to both questions is no.
In the past two years, Israel has been facing a wave of terror attacks: shootings, stabbings, vehicular assaults and even attempts to fire rockets into Israeli towns from the West Bank. What did the P.A. do to stop the attacks? Nothing. The sole entities engaged in combating the terrorists living and operating under the P.A. are Israel’s security forces.
Handing over more land to the P.A. only means allowing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to expand their control to still other parts of the West Bank. The Biden administration and the Saudis, in fact, would probably be quite happy if the entire West Bank fell into the hands of Iran’s proxies.
Worse, the starry-eyed American assumption that the Palestinians, once they receive financial aid, will not turn around and trash an Israel-Saudi normalization deal anyway is completely baseless. Palestinian leaders may keep quiet about a deal, but cannot stop the Palestinian people from condemning Saudi Arabia.
Abbas, now in the eighteenth year of his four-year term, is already not seen as a legitimate leader by most of his people. Public opinion polls published over the past few years show that nearly 80% of Palestinians want him to resign.
Abbas cannot (and does not want to) prevent Palestinians from carrying out terror attacks against Israel. It is naïve to believe that he would order his security forces to stop Palestinians from taking to the streets to protest against Saudi Arabia. He cannot prevent other Palestinian factions from condemning Saudi Arabia. On Sept. 6, PIJ issued a statement denouncing the U.S.-led efforts to strike a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Once a deal is announced, more Palestinian factions are expected to follow suit. Abbas, of course, will be entirely unable to shut them down.
By demanding money in return for keeping silent about a Saudi-Israeli deal, the Palestinian leadership is making promises they cannot and will not keep in order to direct hundreds of millions of dollars straight to Abbas and his top aides. As with the Oslo Accords, the Israelis would be expected to trade tangible land for intangible promises. That arrangement did not work before, and there is no reason to think it will work this time.
If the Biden administration does give the Palestinian leadership money to avoid Palestinian criticism, the Palestinian people will condemn both the United States and their own leadership as traitors for slipping more money than they will ever see into the corrupt leaders’ Swiss bank accounts.
Now that Palestinian leaders claim to be willing to accept a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, for the money, it is time for the Americans and others to realize that bribes will not change the fact that most Arabs and Muslims have still not come to terms with the fact that Israel actually has a right to exist.
Abbas and his aides will take the money, but will never be able to sell their own people a peace agreement with Israel. Palestinian leaders have been allowed by the international community—which never demanded anything in return for the billions of dollars they showered on the P.A.—to radicalize their own people to a point where any peaceful solution with Israel can longer be put forth without the Palestinian leadership being called traitors and immediately condemned—or put to death.
Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.