(August 29, 2018 / The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Recent moves of the U.S. administration on the Palestinian arena (deducting $200 million from U.S. aid and probably adopting a new approach on Palestinian refugees) are signs that as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords (signed on Sept. 13, 1993) there are finally international players that are ready to call a spade a spade. In this spirit, it is high time to admit that the Palestinian Authority—the main product of the agreements—is a “terror sponsoring entity” committed to the Palestinian struggle aimed at completely rectifying the injustice it sees in Zionism. It was like that from the day it was established, and it promises to stick to this identity in the future. Yet until recently, we were willfully blind to it.
The P.A. repeatedly declares that it is determined to keep paying salaries to terrorists arrested in Israeli prisons or released from them, as well as to the families of terrorists who died while performing their terror attacks. P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas stated that “even if we are left with one penny we are going to use it to pay the salaries to the [terrorist] prisoners.” This came in response to the American and Israeli awakening to the reality about the P.A., as represented in the “Taylor Force Act” that denies American aid to the P.A. until it stops paying those salaries and revokes the law according to which they are paid. In a similar vein, Israel adopted an equivalent law that deducts from the taxes collected by Israel and transferred to the P.A. the sum it pays to the terrorists. (Both laws were recently enacted but were not yet implemented. According to a press report American officials explained that the cut in U.S. aid was intended to avoid the need to activate the Taylor Force Act).
In the P.A. 2018 budget, salaries to incarcerated and released terrorists will amount to NIS 550 million ($153 million). The amount allocated for the families of those killed or wounded in the struggle against Zionism is set at NIS 687 million ($190 million). Altogether, the expenditures for supporting terror in the 2018 Palestinian Authority budget is NIS 1.278 billion ($355 million). This sum constitutes 7 percent of the total budget, similar to the last several years, and amounts to 45.8 percent of foreign aid to the P.A. expected in 2018.
The budget for real welfare support is NIS 841 million ($233 million). In 2017 it was 826 million shekels ($229.4 million) and was used for paying 118,000 families under the poverty line 750–1,800 shekels ($208 to $500), compared with 1,400 to 12,000 shekels ($388 to $3,333) a month that are paid to an imprisoned terrorist.
These details are especially problematic as the Palestinian terror continues. Among the recipients of the salaries are the families of the terrorists who murdered Hadas Malka, a policewoman stabbed to death at the Damascus Gate on June 16, 2017, the families of the Israeli Arabs from Umm-Al-Fahm who murdered two Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14, 2017, the terrorist who murdered 3 members of the Solomon family on July 19, 2017, the family of the terrorist who murdered Yotam Ovadia on July 27, 2018 and many more.
Some may advocate that even though we know that the P.A. is a terror-sponsoring entity, we should remain willfully blind because eventually, we shall have to make peace with the PLO and the P.A. as the representatives of the Palestinians, and that telling the truth may force the collapse of the P.A. and its replacement with a worse alternative. Furthermore, it may radicalize the Palestinians and harm the security cooperation with the P.A. security forces that is advantageous to Israel. We believe this is wrong and costs Israel a lot on the international arena.
The PLO, in general, and the P.A., in particular, have long proven themselves not to be potential partners for peace through their hate indoctrination and incitement. The repeated harsh anti-Semitic and hateful declarations of Abbas since the beginning of this year are clear evidence to that. If anybody needs further proof, the Palestinians rejected the Obama and Kerry peace proposals, refuse to receive the Trump administration proposal for “the deal of the century” and reject it without even seeing it.
At the same time, the Palestinian leadership consistently and vehemently oppose the idea that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. One wonders, in light of these factors, how anyone could consider the Palestinian leadership to be a potential peace partner!
There is no reason to be concerned as to the fate of the P.A. It will survive as long as Abbas survives, and if it falls, then it will happen because of internal power struggles and not because of Israel. Moreover, Israel will be able to manage its relations with the P.A. as it does with Hamas in Gaza, which is not a terror-sponsoring entity but a terror organization. In any event, the security cooperation will likely continue inasmuch as it benefits the P.A. in its struggle against Hamas.
Waking up from this willful blindness is necessary in order to stop contending with the P.A. in the international arena with one hand tied behind our back. As long as Israel remains in its denial of the truth about the P.A., it cannot expect the United States and Europe to adopt policies that are based on facts and not illusions. In earnest, how can Israel say with a straight face to its civilians that it is doing everything to protect them without calling the Palestinian Authority for what it really is: a terror-sponsoring entity?
Only by accepting the truth can we send the message that we are not “suckers.” Once the Palestinians begin to consider changing their attitude, it will be possible to start paving the long and winding road to peace.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly director general of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
Sander Gerber is a fellow at the JCPA and JINSA, and the CEO of Hudson Bay Capital Management, LLC. He is the former vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and a former member of the national board of AIPAC.