Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 23, 2011

Palestinians Put Terrorists on Payroll, with American Help

As Alana noted yesterday, President Barack Obama still seems to be waffling on Hamas, asserting in his AIPAC speech both that Israel can’t negotiate with a terrorist organization and that it must do so anyway. Yet really, why should he cavil at Hamas’s support for anti-Israel terror when the Palestinian Authority, to which the U.S. donates hundreds of millions of dollars a year, uses that money for the exact same purpose?

Last week, Palestinian Media Watch reported on a new PA law to grant a monthly salary plus various benefits to any Palestinian or Israeli Arab imprisoned in Israel on terrorism charges. The law was published in the official PA registry on April 13.

Lest anyone doubt that its purpose is specifically to reward people who murder Israelis, it creates a sliding scale under which prisoners serving longer sentences receive higher salaries. Since longer sentences obviously correlate to more serious crimes, that means the greater the crime, the greater the reward—a clear incentive to commit anti-Israel terror.

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As Alana noted yesterday, President Barack Obama still seems to be waffling on Hamas, asserting in his AIPAC speech both that Israel can’t negotiate with a terrorist organization and that it must do so anyway. Yet really, why should he cavil at Hamas’s support for anti-Israel terror when the Palestinian Authority, to which the U.S. donates hundreds of millions of dollars a year, uses that money for the exact same purpose?

Last week, Palestinian Media Watch reported on a new PA law to grant a monthly salary plus various benefits to any Palestinian or Israeli Arab imprisoned in Israel on terrorism charges. The law was published in the official PA registry on April 13.

Lest anyone doubt that its purpose is specifically to reward people who murder Israelis, it creates a sliding scale under which prisoners serving longer sentences receive higher salaries. Since longer sentences obviously correlate to more serious crimes, that means the greater the crime, the greater the reward—a clear incentive to commit anti-Israel terror.

Starting from a base of NIS 1,400 (about $400) a month for prisoners serving up to three years, the salary gradually rises to NIS 8,000 for 20 to 25 years, NIS 10,000 for 25 to 30, and NIS 12,000 (about $3,450) for 30 years or more. Generally, only murderers get sentences of 20 years or more in Israel. Thus the reward for murdering Israelis is a salary 4.5 to 7 times higher than the average daily West Bank wage of NIS 77.

Prisoners who serve longer terms also receive greater benefits. For instance, serving at least five years—three for women—gives you free government health insurance and free university tuition when you get out. If you serve 20 years or more, all your children also get an 80% tuition discount.

As an extra fillip, the law seeks to encourage homegrown terror inside Israel by granting Israeli Arabs an additional monthly bonus of NIS 500 on top of the enticing salary. The NIS 8,000 given a 20-year prisoner is more than double Israel’s minimum wage.

But the crowning outrage was the PA’s response when asked about the new law by the Jerusalem Post. It’s nothing to get excited about, said the PA’s Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, because the PA has actually been paying salaries to convicted terrorists since 1994. All that’s changed over the past few years is that the PA, evidently flush with European and American cash, has raised these salaries several times.

In short, even as PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad were charming the West with their verbal opposition to terror, they were simultaneously working to encourage it by offering greater and greater financial incentives to those who commit it.

Israel ought to state clearly that it can’t possibly negotiate with an entity that pays people to murder its citizens. And its allies in Congress ought to stop financing these murders by means of American aid to the PA.

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Five Predictable Consequences from Obama’s Mideast Speech

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last Thursday has already had five predictable consequences:

First, the President’s closing remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ensured that everything else he said on the Middle East would largely go unnoticed. Everybody is discussing his remark about “June 4, 1967, lines,” hardly anyone is speaking about freedom across the Arab world.

Second, his departure from long-standing U.S. policy regarding final status issues and the most explicit enunciation of Obama’s repudiation of the Bush-Sharon April 2004 understandings has caused a very public disagreement with Israel—the worst possible way for the President to persuade Israel to deliver those “hard choices” the President called for in his speech.

Third, the President has yet again given Europe a free pass to chastise Israel as the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This morning’s statements from the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council attendees border on the usual stupidity. Carl Bildt, for example, derided the notion that the 1967 lines are indefensible by saying, in an echo of European interwar thinking, that “the only defense that is possible is peace.”

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President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last Thursday has already had five predictable consequences:

First, the President’s closing remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ensured that everything else he said on the Middle East would largely go unnoticed. Everybody is discussing his remark about “June 4, 1967, lines,” hardly anyone is speaking about freedom across the Arab world.

Second, his departure from long-standing U.S. policy regarding final status issues and the most explicit enunciation of Obama’s repudiation of the Bush-Sharon April 2004 understandings has caused a very public disagreement with Israel—the worst possible way for the President to persuade Israel to deliver those “hard choices” the President called for in his speech.

Third, the President has yet again given Europe a free pass to chastise Israel as the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This morning’s statements from the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council attendees border on the usual stupidity. Carl Bildt, for example, derided the notion that the 1967 lines are indefensible by saying, in an echo of European interwar thinking, that “the only defense that is possible is peace.”

Fourth, the speech has now given the Palestinians another excuse not to return to negotiations. As former Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response, unless and until Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu accepts the 1967 lines as a territorial basis for a Palestinian state, there shall be no negotiations. This means that the speech has boosted, not hindered, Palestinian efforts to pursue their goals unilaterally, since they can now invoke the authority of the U.S. President.

My colleagues here at Contentions have dissected all of the above wisely, insightfully, and diligently, and there is no need to add, except for a fifth point. The president may have thought it clever to decouple the border and statehood issues from Jerusalem and refugees in order to ensure that a Palestinian state can be established soon without prejudging the core identity issues at the heart of the conflict. That is why, after delineating his vision for Palestinian statehood and Israeli security based on the 1967 lines he added:

I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Could the White House tell the world where the Old City of Jerusalem, with all the holy sites that make the issue both wrenching and emotional, is located with regard to the June 4, 1967, lines? And where is the rest of East Jerusalem located with regard to those same lines? Could it be that the term East refers precisely to the fact that it is located “east” of the June 4, 1967 lines? Or is it somehow hovering above, like the Third Temple according to Talmudic traditions, and waiting to descend when the Messiah comes?

I suspect that someone was too clever by half here—and thought that the President could eat his cake and have it too by stating U.S. support for the June 4, 1967, lines while leaving Jerusalem for later.

One more reason why President Obama’s speech was very much in line with all his previous speeches—strong on the rhetoric, weak and confused on the policy.

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