Recent steps taken by the new Israeli government in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) represent the first indication that a much-needed change is underway.
Traditionally, Israeli governments avoided confronting the P.A. over its breaches of the Oslo Accords, such as supporting terrorism, ongoing incitement and unilateral activities in international fora.
This reluctance was based on the fear that such retaliation would have inconvenient political consequences. So, the can has been repeatedly kicked down the road in hopes of containing the repercussions. The P.A. is bad, previous Israeli governments thought, but what’s the alternative?
One of the first decisions made by the new security cabinet was to impose a series of sanctions on the P.A., signaling that the Israeli government will no longer look the other way when the P.A. unilaterally breaches its signed commitments and continues to fund, incentivize and praise terrorism.
First, $40 million taken from P.A. tax revenue collected by Israel was used to compensate families of terror victims per a pending court order against the P.A. Next, the cabinet decided to implement the Terror Funds Freezing Law, which deducts the amount of money the P.A. pays to terrorists and their families from funds designated for the P.A.
Finally, steps were taken on the ground: VIP permits requested for P.A. officials who are leading the “lawfare” campaign against Israel were denied. Unjustified and unauthorized Palestinian construction plans for Area C of Judea and Samaria—which Oslo designated as under full Israeli control—were frozen. A series of NGOs operating under the guise of humanitarian aid organizations that served as shell companies for terror groups will be more closely scrutinized. These decisions are important initial steps towards a complete policy change regarding the P.A.
The P.A. has long been a strategic threat to Israel’s security and continues to be one. It has been involved in terrorism since it was established, while Israel continues to view it as a force for stability. In fact, due to its unprecedented lack of popularity and legitimacy on the Palestinian “street,” the P.A. is moving towards destabilizing actions, such as suing Israel in the ICC, taking the lead on U.N. resolutions targeting Israel and asking the ICJ to investigate the situation in Judea and Samaria, a clear violation of its Oslo commitments.
Most important are the aforementioned P.A. payments to terrorists. Such payments have been official P.A. policy for decades. The P.A. offers stipends of between $400 to $3,500 monthly for every Palestinian terrorist who murders or attempts to murder innocent Israelis. Payments are promised in advance and wired to the terrorist in Israeli prison or the family of a terrorist killed in the course of his attack. These salaries are lifelong, and even terrorists released from Israeli prisons continue to receive them. The P.A. also guarantees released terrorists a safe position in the P.A. infrastructure, whether as a ghost employee or an actual one, alongside free healthcare and education.
For the average Palestinian, this is like winning the lottery. A lifetime monthly salary of $3,500 is four times the average Palestinian wage and eight times higher than the minimum wage. A convicted terrorist makes five times more than teachers and engineers, as much as a Palestinian supreme court judge. The security threat this presents is clear.
The P.A. also engages in blatant antisemitic incitement in its schools. Its textbooks encourage young Palestinians to think of Jihad as a praiseworthy way of life. It names squares and streets after terrorists and openly praises terrorist attacks on its social media pages.
Finally, the P.A. works to radicalize Israeli Arabs, encouraging them to engage in terrorism by paying them stipends as well. As we speak, Israeli Arab citizens are receiving monthly paychecks from the P.A. for murdering or attempting to murder their Jewish fellow citizens. This situation is now being scrutinized by a pending bill that would strip these persons of their Israeli citizenship.
Openly praising Israeli Arabs for committing violence is also part of the P.A.’s strategy. Senior Palestinian officials arrived in Israel just last week to participate in a “welcome-home festival” for a released Israeli Arab terrorist, Karim Yunes, who participated in the brutal murder of Israeli soldier Avraham Brumberg in 1980. In response, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant denied them further entry to Israeli territory.
The truth is, the P.A. is a terror-promoting entity that has long since proven its commitment to the final objective of Israel’s annihilation. Its daily actions and well-calculated policy, anchored in law and endorsed in outspoken fashion by its senior leaders, have destroyed its credibility as a peace partner.
It is time for the new Israeli government to reconsider Israel’s long-standing policy of containment and preservation of the status quo, and pursue new, creative methods of governing the Palestinians in case the P.A. fails to change its ways.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is the director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Or Yissachar is Head of Research and Content for IDSF-Habithonistim.