Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Leaders Deserve to be Hauled Into the International Criminal Court

As expected, the Palestinian Authority made good on its threat to open a new front in its war on the state of Israel. By submitting material to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the PA is hoping to add to the campaign of demonization of the Jewish state in Europe and to heighten Israel’s diplomatic isolation. While the ICC appears somewhat leery about diving headfirst into a political conflict that cannot be neatly contained, it’s likely that the PA provocation will reap it some of the benefits it seeks in terms of whipping up anti-Israel sentiment. But while there’s no doubt that such any international court will be biased against Israel and judge it by a double standard in terms of its measures of self-defense or settlement policy, the Palestinians also need to be reminded of an old truism: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

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As expected, the Palestinian Authority made good on its threat to open a new front in its war on the state of Israel. By submitting material to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the PA is hoping to add to the campaign of demonization of the Jewish state in Europe and to heighten Israel’s diplomatic isolation. While the ICC appears somewhat leery about diving headfirst into a political conflict that cannot be neatly contained, it’s likely that the PA provocation will reap it some of the benefits it seeks in terms of whipping up anti-Israel sentiment. But while there’s no doubt that such any international court will be biased against Israel and judge it by a double standard in terms of its measures of self-defense or settlement policy, the Palestinians also need to be reminded of an old truism: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The United States roundly condemned the Palestinian move today. The administration did so not out of affection for Israel, but because the decision to go to the court is evidence that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling Fatah clique have no intention of returning to peace talks with Israel no matter what inducements the Obama administration offers them. The president is still hoping to embark on one more bout of pressure on Israel in order to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians even though every previous such effort has been met by indifference on the part of the PA. But another power play directed against Israel becomes that much harder to justify if the PA is directly contradicting its past commitments to the United States to refrain from seeking to litigate in court issues that must be decided by direct negotiations.

One element of the PA strategy that should be noted is that Israel is not the only potential target of this effort. Abbas knows that even if the court takes up bogus war crimes allegations against Israel, it will be obliged to address the far more substantial charges that can be laid at the door of his Hamas rivals. It was Hamas, after all, that started last summer’s war and launched thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli cities and town intended to kill and maim as many civilians as possible. While the PA won’t assist efforts to investigate Hamas, that would be a fringe benefit of incitement against Israel.

But Hamas is not the only Palestinian force that is guilty of crimes worthy of investigation. The PA has also funded terrorists and incited terror via its official media. Moreover, shining a light on the terrorism conducted by Palestinians last summer may also land Abbas and aide Jibril Rajoub in court. The Israel Law Center is preparing to send the ICC its own indictments of the PA leadership for acts of terror committed by Fatah affiliates directly under Abbas’s control.

Using their formidable propaganda machine assisted by an international press that is always prepared to judge Israel affair, Palestinians have been able to demonize the Jewish state in the court of international public opinion. But any real court, even one as biased as the ICC against Israel will also have to look at the far more credible criminal charges that can be laid at the feet of both sets of Palestinian tyrants. Once investigations begin, PA is as vulnerable as Hamas no matter how much sympathy they generate in a Europe where anti-Semitism is on the rise. By going to court, they have opened a Pandora’s Box with consequences that few can predict.

Meanwhile, even an administration that is as biased against Israel as that of President Obama must look on this pointless exercise with dismay. Those who refuse to admit that the Palestinians are not interested in peace have ignored their repeated refusals to accept offers of statehood from Israel. But ignoring an effort to prosecute Israel rather than negotiate with it won’t be quite as easy. It’s time for President Obama to do more than have spokespersons condemn the court gambit. He needs to warn Abbas that he stands to be finally cut loose by an administration that has wasted too much political capital and good will in fruitless efforts to aid the Palestinians at Israel’s expense.

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The Pope’s Better Angels of Peace

It turns out Pope Francis may not have called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace.” That was the quote reported by the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and the New York Times on Saturday night and led to my response here criticizing the pontiff for uttering such an egregious comment the following morning. Speaking the way about a man who was a Holocaust denier, a funder and organizer of terrorism, presides over a government and media that routinely foments hatred of Jews and Israel and who has repeatedly rejected peace would be outrageous. But if, as Tom Gross pointed out in the Weekly Standard, most of the Italian press reported that the pope actually said, “you could be an angel of peace,” that puts the exchange in a very different light. That led Gross to claim those mainstream media outlets that spread the original story did so because they are prejudiced against Israel and for the Palestinians. Gross is on to something there since media bias on the Middle East is real. But before we file this story away as merely another example of this problem, let’s put it in context. If the Times and other outlets that picked up the quote haven’t yet corrected their stories, it’s also because the event during which the pope spoke led them to think that’s what he meant. In this case, the fault may belong as much to the Vatican as to those reporters who spread the misquote.

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It turns out Pope Francis may not have called Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace.” That was the quote reported by the Associated Press, Agence France Presse and the New York Times on Saturday night and led to my response here criticizing the pontiff for uttering such an egregious comment the following morning. Speaking the way about a man who was a Holocaust denier, a funder and organizer of terrorism, presides over a government and media that routinely foments hatred of Jews and Israel and who has repeatedly rejected peace would be outrageous. But if, as Tom Gross pointed out in the Weekly Standard, most of the Italian press reported that the pope actually said, “you could be an angel of peace,” that puts the exchange in a very different light. That led Gross to claim those mainstream media outlets that spread the original story did so because they are prejudiced against Israel and for the Palestinians. Gross is on to something there since media bias on the Middle East is real. But before we file this story away as merely another example of this problem, let’s put it in context. If the Times and other outlets that picked up the quote haven’t yet corrected their stories, it’s also because the event during which the pope spoke led them to think that’s what he meant. In this case, the fault may belong as much to the Vatican as to those reporters who spread the misquote.

As Gross noted, there is now good reason to think the pope did not call Abbas an “angel of peace.” The Italian press quoted the pope as saying, “Lei possa essere un angelo della pace” — which is translated as “you could be an angel of peace.” The  pope giving Abbas a gift of a medallion that shows an angel of peace “destroying the bad spirit of war” (apparently a standard event for all visitors) and led to the pontiff saying that Abbas could do the same thing. That not only doesn’t sound bad, it could be spun as the pope challenging Abbas to do something that he has not done before. Even more, some have pointed that in addition to the medal, the pope also gave Abbas a copy of his 2013 encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, a document that included language that spoke of Judaism with respect. That could lead some to think the pope was actually sending the PA leader a critical message rather than a pat on the back. If true, that should generate applause from friends of Israel rather than criticism.

But there’s a good reason why the mainstream press has been slow to amend their original stories: the Vatican hasn’t sought a correction. As the Times of Israel pointed out today, neither the Vatican website nor its official news agency specified what the pope said to Abbas on Saturday. Nor did they note the widespread discrepancies in the coverage of that event with many publications making the claim that the pope praised Abbas and others using the more equivocal quote. Nor is that likely to happen.

As much as many of us are rightly predisposed to think that the AP or the New York Times willfully distorted the pope’s words, the Vatican doesn’t appear to be displeased about the misquote. Moreover, it’s hard to be too tough on reporters who got the quote wrong in that manner because praise of Abbas and the Palestinian cause seemed to be exactly the purpose of the visit and other events surrounding the canonization of two Arab nuns who lived in the country when it was under Ottoman rule during the 19th century.

The Vatican’s decision to join much of the rest of Europe and recognize Palestinian independence without first insisting that Abbas (and/or his Hamas rivals that rule Gaza) make peace with Israel was a signal not just of approval for the PA leader but of contempt for efforts to hold him accountable for his behavior. It is a good thing if Pope Francis did not actually call Abbas “an angel of peace.” But by approving the PA’s end run around the peace process at the United Nations, the pope has already done something that is morally equivalent to such an outrageous statement.

Were the pope really interested in challenging Abbas to become an angel of peace, he would not be authorizing the Vatican to conclude a treaty recognizing Palestine while its leaders refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. The church had an opportunity to stand for peace by refusing to join the rush to recognize a government that has no control over the territory it claims and much of which is under the thumb of an Islamist terror group with which the PA has tried to forge an alliance. If the Vatican hasn’t asked for a correction about the misquote, it’s because it seems to be perfectly happy to let the world think the pope is an ardent backer of the PA.

So as much as we are right to criticize the Times, the AP and Agence France Pressse for their mistake, the real fault lies with a Vatican that staged a happy photo op with a leader with Abbas’s checkered past and present opposition to peace talks. No one who knows much about Abbas thinks he could ever be an angel of peace. But Pope Francis, a good man whose good intentions deserve our respect, could be one. But in order to do it, he would have to step back from a policy that aligns the Vatican with those seeking to unfairly pressure Israel and gives the PA a pass for rejecting peace.

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Sorry, Your Holiness, But Abbas is No Angel

Those who forget that the Vatican is a city-state and not just the home office of the Catholic Church got a reminder this past week of just how its sovereignty works. Its decision to formally recognize “Palestine” as an independent nation was not a theological position but one in keeping with the policies of the rest of Europe which has chosen to promote the Palestinian Authority’s ambitions despite its repeated refusal to make peace and its lack of control of much of the territory it claims. The announcement of the planned treaty was timed to coincide with the canonization of two 19th century Arab nuns who lived in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. Yet despite that religious gloss on an otherwise realpolitik move the nuns were upstaged when Pope Francis embraced PA leader Mahmoud Abbas on his visit to Rome and pronounced him “an angel of peace.” Such hyperbole may be par for the course in exchanges between heads of state but for the pope to say something that is so patently false damages his credibility in a way that does the church more harm than might have occurred than had it decided not to join in the rush to recognize the Palestinians. Abbas may be many things but he is no angel as well as not being a champion of peace.

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Those who forget that the Vatican is a city-state and not just the home office of the Catholic Church got a reminder this past week of just how its sovereignty works. Its decision to formally recognize “Palestine” as an independent nation was not a theological position but one in keeping with the policies of the rest of Europe which has chosen to promote the Palestinian Authority’s ambitions despite its repeated refusal to make peace and its lack of control of much of the territory it claims. The announcement of the planned treaty was timed to coincide with the canonization of two 19th century Arab nuns who lived in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. Yet despite that religious gloss on an otherwise realpolitik move the nuns were upstaged when Pope Francis embraced PA leader Mahmoud Abbas on his visit to Rome and pronounced him “an angel of peace.” Such hyperbole may be par for the course in exchanges between heads of state but for the pope to say something that is so patently false damages his credibility in a way that does the church more harm than might have occurred than had it decided not to join in the rush to recognize the Palestinians. Abbas may be many things but he is no angel as well as not being a champion of peace.

As I noted last week, the decisions being taken by the Vatican and other European states won’t advance peace. To the contrary, such moves only encourage Abbas to continue to refuse to negotiate with Israel. The only path forward for a two state solution to the conflict is for the Palestinians to be given statehood only after they have made peace with Israel and not before. Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat have repeatedly refused Israeli offers of peace and statehood. To this day, he refuses to sign any deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

That alone should be enough to deny Abbas the title of “angel of peace.” But that isn’t the only reason. Abbas was a longtime deputy to arch-terrorist Arafat and played a role in organizing and financing many acts of brutal terrorism. But unlike other world leaders who might have employed violence in his youth and then became a statesman, Abbas has never really changed. He is the same man who wrote a doctoral thesis that centered on Holocaust denial at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University that was published in 1984. He continues to embrace and honor terrorists, such as the murderers with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands that were released by Israel in order to ransom Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. Just as important, though he occasionally makes statements about wanting peace when speaking to Western audiences or the international media, his official PA media incites hatred against Jews and Israel on a regular basis.

Let’s concede that part of the Vatican’s motivation for all the love being shown the Palestinians is a desire to position the church to protect Middle East Christians at a time when they are under siege from radical Islam in the region. That ISIS is slaughtering Christians with impunity is well known. Less talked about is the every day pressure that Christian communities are under throughout the region. The result is that ancient Christian communities are disappearing as its members flee for safety in the West rather than face increasing marginalization and discrimination if not violence.

That Christian institutions like the Church would choose to ingratiate themselves with the Muslim world by attacking Israel in this manner is not altogether surprising. Arab Christians have long sought to gain acceptance from Muslims by being in the forefront of the struggle against Zionism. It hasn’t worked as Arab Christians continue to be attacked no matter how ardently they demonstrate their antipathy for Israel and Jews. Religious minorities in the Muslim have a natural ally in Israel but Arab Christians and some of their Western supporters continue to cling to the myth that they can win acceptance from Muslims by joining in attacks on the Jews. That Western Christians also adopt such attitudes is equally foolish. But it can also be explained by anti-Semitic attitudes that persist in Europe despite the heroic efforts of Pope Francis’ predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II to eradicate the vestiges of the Church’s past errors.

The pope might be forgiven for this flight of fancy if he were to give an equally egregious title to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a meeting with him. But given the animosity that Europeans direct toward the democratically elected leader of the Jewish state such a similar papal embrace is highly unlikely.

Pope Francis’s statement about Abbas can be dismissed as mere window dressing to the Vatican’s diplomatic initiative. But the damage the pope does when he says things that are so blatantly false goes beyond the assault on the truth that so often occurs when world leaders are polite to each other. The power of the papacy remains great. During the last decade of the Cold War, Pope John Paul II proved that Stalin was wrong when he mocked a previous pope by asking how many divisions he controlled. But that power must rest in truth if it is to be more than just talk.

The pope is a good man whose intentions should not be questioned. But just as the Vatican should refrain from acts that harm peace such as its recognition of Palestine, so, too, should the pope not utter falsehoods. That Pope Francis must meet with Abbas is to be expected but when he says something so obviously untrue about him, it hurts the papacy and undermines good relations between the church and the Jewish people more than it helps the corrupt, tyrannical and undemocratic leader of a Palestinian kleptocracy.

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The Election that Didn’t Happen Matters Far More than the One that Did

In the West, where regular elections are taken for granted, what interested people about yesterday’s Israeli ballot was the outcome. But in the Middle East, many were envious of the very fact that it took place. Nowhere was this truer than among Palestinians, who haven’t had an election in 10 years – not because Israel is preventing them from doing so, but because their own leadership is. And anyone who actually cares about the peace process ought to be far more worried by the Palestinian election that didn’t happen than by the outcome of the Israeli one that did.

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In the West, where regular elections are taken for granted, what interested people about yesterday’s Israeli ballot was the outcome. But in the Middle East, many were envious of the very fact that it took place. Nowhere was this truer than among Palestinians, who haven’t had an election in 10 years – not because Israel is preventing them from doing so, but because their own leadership is. And anyone who actually cares about the peace process ought to be far more worried by the Palestinian election that didn’t happen than by the outcome of the Israeli one that did.

A veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah summed up the prevailing sentiment succinctly. “We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy,” he told Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh before the election. “We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

Ghanem Nuseibeh, an East Jerusalem Palestinian now living in Britain, put out an illuminating series of tweets throughout Election Day, including, “Over a million Arabs take part in Middle East’s most democratic elections today”; “The Arabs in Israel are the only Middle East Arab group that practices true democracy”; and “Israel is secure not because it will elect Bibi or Buji, but because of what it is doing today.” He was rooting for Isaac Herzog (“Buji”) and deplored Benjamin Netanyahu, but after acknowledging that his candidate had lost, he nevertheless tweeted, “Israel is the world’s most vibrant democracy” …. “If an Arab country had the same wide spectrum of political parties as Israel does, it would be fighting a civil war unseen in human history.”

Astoundingly, even Hamas in Gaza issued numerous tweets urging Israeli Arabs to vote for the Arab parties’ Joint List. One can only imagine what Gaza residents must have felt at seeing Hamas urge Palestinian Israelis to exercise a right Palestinians in Gaza are denied by their own Hamas-run government.

The absence of Palestinian elections can’t be blamed on “the occupation,” since said “occupation” didn’t prevent elections for the Palestinian Authority from being held in both 1994 and 2005/2006. Rather, it’s entirely the choice of the Palestinians’ own rival governments – Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Both have steadfastly refused to call new elections for fear of losing power.

Nor is the vote the only right Palestinians’ own governments deny them. They are also deprived of other basic civil rights like freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Both Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank routinely arrest and intimidate journalists; consequently, a recent study found, fully 80% of Palestinian journalists say they self-censor. Palestinians also face arrest even for Facebook posts criticizing their respective governments.

But aside from the fact that this denial of basic civil rights is bad in general, it has real implications for the peace process. Here, another of Nuseibeh’s Election Day tweets is instructive: “Neither the PA nor Bibi want peace. Difference is Israel can remove its own obstacle for peace, through free elections.”

Even if one disputes his assessment of Netanyahu, Abbas or both, his basic point is unarguable: If Israelis see a chance for peace and consider their own prime minister an obstacle to it, they can unseat him – an option they’ve in fact exercised in the past. Palestinians have no such option.

But the problem goes deeper than that – because Abbas, now in the 11th year of his four-year term, also lacks the democratic legitimacy needed to make the kind of concessions any peace agreement would entail. Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid summed up the issue bluntly in a lecture to the Limmud UK conference in December: Abbas, he told his shocked audience, will never be able to make peace with Israel, because he currently represents nobody except himself, his wife and his two sons.

And this does much to explain what most Western leaders consider the deplorable outcome of yesterday’s Israeli vote. As a poll taken last week showed, fully 64% of Israeli Jews agree that “no matter which party forms the next government the peace process with the Palestinians will not advance because there is no solution to the dispute,” and an identical 64% believe “the Palestinian leadership will not show greater flexibility and readiness for concessions” if Herzog replaces Netanyahu. In other words, Israelis saw no reason to vote for a premier more enthusiastic about pursuing peace talks because they saw no answering enthusiasm from the Palestinian side. Had they faced a new Palestinian government that did show interest in making peace, I suspect Israelis would choose Herzog over Netanyahu by a large majority.

Thus if Western leaders are serious about wanting Israeli-Palestinian peace, working to rectify the lack of Palestinian democracy would be far more productive than wringing their hands over the choices made by Israel’s democracy. For precisely because Israelis can always change their minds again in a few years, the Palestinian democracy deficit is far more detrimental to the prospects for peace than the outcome of any Israeli election ever could be.

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Netanyahu Won’t Create a Palestinian State. Neither Will Herzog.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s last-minute appeals to right-wing voters set off a storm on Twitter among his left-wing and liberal critics. Though Netanyahu had publicly embraced the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict years ago and had offered statehood to the Palestinians in the talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry, yesterday he vowed that such a thing would never happen if he were reelected. For those who refused to blame the Palestinians for repeatedly refusing such offers from Netanyahu and his predecessors, this is a chance to claim that the lack of peace is the prime minister’s fault after all. Even worse, some are now claiming that he had been tricking President Obama and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Are they right? Not really. Though Netanyahu may be justly accused of flip-flopping now, that doesn’t justify past Palestinian refusals of peace offers. More to the point, despite his continued embraced of the idea, the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog isn’t any more likely to sign a deal to create a Palestinian state than Netanyahu if he wins the election.

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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s last-minute appeals to right-wing voters set off a storm on Twitter among his left-wing and liberal critics. Though Netanyahu had publicly embraced the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict years ago and had offered statehood to the Palestinians in the talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry, yesterday he vowed that such a thing would never happen if he were reelected. For those who refused to blame the Palestinians for repeatedly refusing such offers from Netanyahu and his predecessors, this is a chance to claim that the lack of peace is the prime minister’s fault after all. Even worse, some are now claiming that he had been tricking President Obama and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Are they right? Not really. Though Netanyahu may be justly accused of flip-flopping now, that doesn’t justify past Palestinian refusals of peace offers. More to the point, despite his continued embraced of the idea, the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog isn’t any more likely to sign a deal to create a Palestinian state than Netanyahu if he wins the election.

Both Netanyahu and Herzog and their principal supporters have been at pains to differentiate their stands on security issues. That fits Netanyahu’s narrative in which he depicts himself as the only thing standing between Israel and a left-wing government that would give away Jerusalem and allow the creation of another “Hamasistan” in the West Bank like the one in Gaza. By contrast, Herzog has encouraged the U.S. government (if not the Israeli people) to think of him as far more reasonable than Netanyahu on the peace process. Moreover, Herzog does talk as if he could actually entice the Palestinians to accept a two-state solution that would respect Israel’s security needs and recognize its legitimacy, thus ending the conflict.

But the truth about their differences is a lot less dramatic than either of them would have us believe.

Netanyahu is talking tough now that he needs center-right voters to abandon the small parties they have embraced because they assumed the Likud would lead the next government. So rather than appeal to moderates, he’s now telling them that if they want to avoid the nightmare of a terrorist run state in Jerusalem, they must vote for the Likud. But throughout his nine years as prime minister he has always shown a willingness to negotiate and even make concessions on settlements and territory. It was he who withdrew Israeli troops from Hebron during his first term. He froze settlement building in the West Bank during his second term though he got no credit from President Obama for doing so. And it was Netanyahu, despite his current impassioned denials, who made it clear to both the Americans and the Palestinians that he would agree to a Palestinian state on terms very similar to the generous offer made by his predecessor Ehud Olmert. If he is reelected, you can bet he will saunter back to the center as he has done before.

By contrast, for all of the expectations he has encouraged about making progress toward peace, Herzog has campaigned in Israel opposing the division of Jerusalem, a sine qua non for any agreement that Abbas would even think about discussing. Nor does he oppose building in the Jewish neighborhoods built in the city since the 1967 war. And he supports holding onto the same West Bank settlement blocs that the Obama administration has blasted Netanyahu for building up. Like Netanyahu, Herzog will demand that the Palestinians give up the right of return for the descendants of 1948 refugees.

But the real reason why neither man will sign a peace deal with Abbas has nothing to do with their respective and all-too-similar stands. Rather, it has to do with the unchanged political culture of the Palestinians that has prevented Yasir Arafat and then Abbas from accepting Israeli offers of statehood four times in the last 15 years. Until Palestinian nationalism stops being inextricably connected with a century-long war on Zionism, peace will never happen. And with Gaza still firmly under the control of Hamas, the already slim odds of Abbas feeling strong enough to make peace (assuming that he actually wants to) will remain zero. Moreover, most Israelis think a repeat of the disastrous 2005 withdrawal from Gaza would probably result in another Hamasistan in the West Bank.

Though President Obama and Secretary Kerry continue to labor under the delusion that pressure on Israel provides the magic formula for peace, the opposite is true. It is the Palestinians who need to change, not Israel. And Israelis, who once embraced the hope of Oslo, know it all too well. That’s why, to Netanyahu’s discontent, they are currently more interested in domestic issues rather than war and peace.

The real joke is not on Netanyahu for being a flip-flopper but on those who think either possible prime minister will make peace with a Palestinian leadership that is still unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

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Malley’s Rise and Obama’s Blame-Israel Policy

Back in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama was being careful about quashing any notion that he was hostile to Israel or friendly to its foes. So when it was revealed that Robert Malley was a foreign-policy advisor to his campaign, he was quickly canned. But Malley, who served in the Clinton administration and then subsequently acted as an apologist for Yasir Arafat, had met with Hamas, and was a persistent critic of Israel’s governments (those led by Labor as well as Likud), is back. Last year, after President Obama was reelected, Malley joined his National Security Council. This week, we learned that Malley has gotten a promotion and will now head the Middle East desk at the NSC. As much as any of the rumors floating around Washington about the president’s intention to resurrect the dead-in-the-water Middle East peace process, this appointment indicates that the administration is not only determined to make another push but that all the pressure and the inevitable blame for its failure will be placed on Israel.

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Back in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama was being careful about quashing any notion that he was hostile to Israel or friendly to its foes. So when it was revealed that Robert Malley was a foreign-policy advisor to his campaign, he was quickly canned. But Malley, who served in the Clinton administration and then subsequently acted as an apologist for Yasir Arafat, had met with Hamas, and was a persistent critic of Israel’s governments (those led by Labor as well as Likud), is back. Last year, after President Obama was reelected, Malley joined his National Security Council. This week, we learned that Malley has gotten a promotion and will now head the Middle East desk at the NSC. As much as any of the rumors floating around Washington about the president’s intention to resurrect the dead-in-the-water Middle East peace process, this appointment indicates that the administration is not only determined to make another push but that all the pressure and the inevitable blame for its failure will be placed on Israel.

That a veteran foreign-policy hand that served Bill Clinton would get a job in the Obama administration is hardly a surprise. But Malley is no ordinary ex-Clinton staffer.

As part of the White House staff, Malley joined the president at the 2000 Camp David Summit where then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak tried, with Clinton’s urging, to bring the conflict to an end. To do so, he offered Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat independence and sovereignty on terms that no previous Israeli government had ever considered. He put on the table terms that would create an independent Palestinian state in Gaza, most of the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem. But Arafat stunned both Barak and Clinton by saying “no.” He repeated that refusal in the waning days of the Clinton administration in January 2001 even after Barak tried to sweeten the already generous terms. Mahmoud Abbas repeated that refusal when Ehud Olmert offered even better terms in 2008 and again when the Palestinian leader refused to negotiate with current Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Malley understands the reason why the Palestinians refused to make peace. As he admitted in a New York Times op-ed he wrote with Hussein Agha, Palestinians have never let go of their demand for a “right of return” that is incompatible with Israel’s survival as a Jewish state. That’s why neither Arafat nor Abbas is capable of accepting any peace deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

But the significant thing to remember about this NSC appointment is that in the aftermath of Camp David, Malley defended Arafat. Bill Clinton has spent the years since that disaster publicly blasting Arafat for saying no to a golden opportunity to make peace and costing him a Nobel Peace Prize in the bargain. Malley thought it was “simplistic” to simply blame Arafat because he believed it wrong to expect any Palestinian leader to simply end the conflict on terms that provide Israeli security or grants legitimacy to a Jewish state. To Malley’s thinking, the fact that Arafat replied to Barak’s unprecedented and generous peace offer with not only a “no,” but also a terrorist war of attrition known as the Second Intifada was understandable if not necessarily commendable.

His record makes it clear that Malley isn’t merely unsympathetic to the Jewish state but that he views the quest for a two-state solution on any basis that could provide for Israel’s long-term survival as something that Western leaders should not try to impose on the Palestinians.

Thus, putting Malley in a position of influence isn’t merely harmful symbolism as was the case with the 2008 campaign. Rather, by putting him in charge of the Middle East desk at the NSC, the administration is ensuring that any effort to promote the peace process will be predicated solely on pressure on Israel to make concessions on security and its rights while the Palestinians will not be expected to do anything.

That doesn’t sound very different from the American role during the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative. Despite Abbas blowing up the talks by signing a unity pact with Hamas and ditching the talks to go to the United Nations in violation of the PA’s Oslo commitments to gain recognition for the Palestinians, President Obama still blamed it all on Israel. But now that Malley’s role is even more defined there will be no doubt that U.S. policy will be focused exclusively on pressuring Israel. Rather than it being Israel that lacks real faith in a fair two-state solution, with Malley helping to run our Middle East policy it will be the U.S. that will be undermining the admittedly slim hopes for an end to the conflict.

But Malley’s appointment isn’t merely another indication of the president’s antipathy for Israel’s government. It is also a gesture of contempt for pro-Israel Democrats that defended Obama’s bona fides on Israel in both 2008 and 2012. As the president uses his final two years in office to hammer Israel and further undermines the minimal chances for peace by giving the Palestinians license to stonewall negotiations, those friends of Israel would voted for the president should remember how they were suckered.

Even more importantly, as Americans view the drama of the Middle East over the course of the last 22 months of the Obama presidency, they would do well to remember that in an administration that will be consistently blaming Israel for the lack of peace (whether it is led by Benjamin Netanyahu or Isaac Herzog) the person whispering these conclusions in the president’s ear is the same guy that was offering alibis for a terrorist murderer like Yasir Arafat.

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Bibi Was Ready for Peace, Abbas Wasn’t

When the Middle East peace talks collapsed last spring, the Obama administration made no secret of its willingness to blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative. According to both Kerry and President Obama, it was Netanyahu’s actions on settlements and refusal to accommodate the Palestinians that undermined the effort. Even for those not privy to inside information this made no sense and it was even contradicted by the testimony of Tzipi Livni, one of Netanyahu’s main rivals for power. But now a new document has surfaced detailing just how far Netanyahu was willing to go to make peace. But don’t expect this to change the minds of an administration that has, from its first moments in 2009, sought to distance the U.S. from the Jewish state. But it does provide even more evidence for those who are capable of being persuaded by facts that it remains the Palestinian refusal to make peace on even the most favorable terms that prevents the end of the conflict. That means the talk about a new U.S. initiative in the waning months of the Obama presidency is doomed no matter how much pressure is placed on the Israelis.

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When the Middle East peace talks collapsed last spring, the Obama administration made no secret of its willingness to blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative. According to both Kerry and President Obama, it was Netanyahu’s actions on settlements and refusal to accommodate the Palestinians that undermined the effort. Even for those not privy to inside information this made no sense and it was even contradicted by the testimony of Tzipi Livni, one of Netanyahu’s main rivals for power. But now a new document has surfaced detailing just how far Netanyahu was willing to go to make peace. But don’t expect this to change the minds of an administration that has, from its first moments in 2009, sought to distance the U.S. from the Jewish state. But it does provide even more evidence for those who are capable of being persuaded by facts that it remains the Palestinian refusal to make peace on even the most favorable terms that prevents the end of the conflict. That means the talk about a new U.S. initiative in the waning months of the Obama presidency is doomed no matter how much pressure is placed on the Israelis.

For those who care to remember what actually happened in the spring of 2014, the facts aren’t in much dispute. After several months of Palestinian stonewalling in the peace talks, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas blew them up by signing a unity deal with Hamas. He then compounded that folly by ignoring his obligations under the Oslo Accords and heading to the United Nations in a vain attempt to gain recognition for Palestinian independence at the world body. That Obama and Kerry chose to ignore these actions and instead blame it all on Netanyahu was a clear measure of their disdain for the prime minister and his country.

But even Livni, who despises Netanyahu and is working to defeat him in the Knesset Elections this month told the New York Times last year that it was the Palestinians who derailed any chance of peace by stonewalling the talks at crucial moments. Given that the same PA turned down offers of peace and independence in almost all the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001 and 2008, this is a hardly a surprise. The political culture of the Palestinians makes it impossible for Abbas to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.

But in spite of these facts, Americans still speak of the intransigent Abbas as a champion of peace and Netanyahu as an obstacle to it. This document will hurt Netanyahu with his right-wing base but it undermines the narrative about his opposition to peace. This latest evidence reported today in Yediot Aharonoth shows that Netanyahu told the Palestinians he was prepared to go as far as the Obama administration had been urging him to do with respect to borders, settlements and Jerusalem. But, as they had three times before, the PA wanted no part of peace even on the terms Obama wanted. Why? Palestinian nationalism is still intrinsically tied to rejection of a Jewish state on any terms that allow for its survival. Until that changes, peace remains just a dream.

That’s why the next Obama peace push will fail as miserably as the last one. When it does, the president will blame Netanyahu or whoever is in power in Israel. But it will be just as much of a lie then as it was in 2014.

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Verdict on Palestinian Terror Ends Abbas Masquerade as a Force for Peace

Today’s verdict in a federal court in New York City won’t end Palestinian terrorism. Nor will it force the Palestinian Authority or its foreign cheerleaders to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state or to cease working for its destruction. But the results of the trial in which a jury rightly held the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization responsible for terror attacks carried out during the Second Intifada, in which several Americans were killed and wounded, should remove any doubt about the fact that so-called Palestinian moderates are as connected to terrorism as more extreme factions like Hamas. As significant as the stunning $218.5 million in damages (that will be automatically tripled to $655.5 million under U.S. law because it involves terrorism) assessed against the defendants, the really important point is that the decision strips away the veneer of respectability that figures such as PA leader Mahmoud Abbas have acquired from both the Obama administration and the mainstream media.

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Today’s verdict in a federal court in New York City won’t end Palestinian terrorism. Nor will it force the Palestinian Authority or its foreign cheerleaders to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state or to cease working for its destruction. But the results of the trial in which a jury rightly held the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization responsible for terror attacks carried out during the Second Intifada, in which several Americans were killed and wounded, should remove any doubt about the fact that so-called Palestinian moderates are as connected to terrorism as more extreme factions like Hamas. As significant as the stunning $218.5 million in damages (that will be automatically tripled to $655.5 million under U.S. law because it involves terrorism) assessed against the defendants, the really important point is that the decision strips away the veneer of respectability that figures such as PA leader Mahmoud Abbas have acquired from both the Obama administration and the mainstream media.

The case was the work of Shurat HaDin — The Israel Law Center, which, under the leadership of Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner has waged an effective legal campaign against the perpetrators of terror. Darshan-Leitner and the American lawyers who have tried some of these cases have been able to bring the terrorists, their sponsors, as well as their enablers to the bar of justice. Last fall’s verdict in the case against The Arab Bank set down a precedent in which financial institutions could be held accountable for knowingly processing transactions that allow terror groups to do business. In this case against the PA and the PLO, they have brought to light the direct involvement of these institutions in the organization and financing of terrorism.

The reaction from the Obama administration to these verdicts is likely to be consternation. The federal government has opposed all efforts on the part of terror victims to get justice in these cases. But the State Department will be particularly motivated to aid the defendants now. The PA is a kleptocracy run by people like Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat, who have looted the billions in U.S. and Western aid given to the Palestinians over the last two decades. Yet the gravy train never stops for Abbas and company since they are viewed by the Israelis as a necessary evil without whom they would be forced to govern the West Bank themselves while the Obama administration continues to promote the PA as a courageous force for peace even though the record demonstrates they are the principal obstacle to reconciliation.

Recently, Israel has withheld some of the tax revenue it collects for the Palestinians from the PA as a punishment for Abbas’s decision to trash its Oslo Accords commitments by seeking to have the United Nations recognize their independence and to harass the Jewish state in the International Court. So the prospect of being docked more than half a billion is a huge problem for a government that is already bankrupted. But that shouldn’t justify any U.S. actions seeking to overturn the verdicts.

Put simply, the U.S. courts have decided not to let the Palestinians get away with murder. Nor should the administration. Peace will come the moment the Palestinians decided to abandon their opposition to a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Until then, they should not count on an unending U.S. revenue stream or impunity for their involvement in terror. Justice prevailed in a New York courtroom today. As painful as it may be for him to admit that it is Abbas and not his bête noire Benjamin Netanyahu who is the problem, it’s time for President Obama to stop engaging in denial about Palestinian reality. Support for peace or sympathy for the Palestinians should not cause the administration to seek to obstruct that verdict.

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How Different Would Herzog Be From Bibi?

With a little more than a month to go before Israel’s Knesset election, there isn’t much doubt that the White House is hoping and praying that Israeli voters reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bid for a third consecutive term in office. With Obama using Netanyahu’s plan to speak to Congress on Iran sanctions only weeks before the vote and the prime minister speaking of his “duty” to inform the world about the mistaken policy being pursued by the administration, tensions between the two governments are at fever pitch. While the impact of Netanyahu’s speech on Israeli voters is a matter of speculation, he remains favored to win. But what will really change if Obama gets his wish and, instead, the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog emerges from what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiations as Israel’s next prime minister? The answer is that while the atmospherics between Washington and Jerusalem will undoubtedly be a lot better, the substance of the arguments between the two governments won’t change much. Nor will, despite the assumptions on the part of Netanyahu’s many critics, Israel be any closer to peace under Herzog than it is under the incumbent.

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With a little more than a month to go before Israel’s Knesset election, there isn’t much doubt that the White House is hoping and praying that Israeli voters reject Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bid for a third consecutive term in office. With Obama using Netanyahu’s plan to speak to Congress on Iran sanctions only weeks before the vote and the prime minister speaking of his “duty” to inform the world about the mistaken policy being pursued by the administration, tensions between the two governments are at fever pitch. While the impact of Netanyahu’s speech on Israeli voters is a matter of speculation, he remains favored to win. But what will really change if Obama gets his wish and, instead, the Labor Party’s Isaac Herzog emerges from what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiations as Israel’s next prime minister? The answer is that while the atmospherics between Washington and Jerusalem will undoubtedly be a lot better, the substance of the arguments between the two governments won’t change much. Nor will, despite the assumptions on the part of Netanyahu’s many critics, Israel be any closer to peace under Herzog than it is under the incumbent.

To listen to Herzog and his new partner Tzipi Livni, who merged her defunct Hatnua Party with Labor to form what they call the Zionist Camp, the differences will be significant. Herzog has spoken of his commitment to the peace process. It’s likely that he would encourage a renewal of the talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry that collapsed last year after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas.

But would the terms he is willing to offer Abbas differ from those that the Palestinians have already rejected?

Herzog has danced around the question of a divided Jerusalem. Though he is saying now that he wants to keep the city united, in the past he has endorsed the Geneva Initiative’s plans for a division. That waffling is in stark contrast to Netanyahu’s adamant refusal to partition Israel’s capital. But in practice, Herzog might still find himself locked in disputes with the Obama administration on Jerusalem. That’s because Obama considers the 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods built in parts of the city that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 to be little different than the most hilltop encampments in the West Bank where Jews are living. To the administration, both are “settlements” and obstacles to peace. Any Herzog-Livni government would be a coalition with centrist parties, including relative hardliners like Avigdor Lieberman, and not Labor’s allies to the left or the Arab parties. It is inconceivable that any such government would agree, as the president almost certainly will demand, for a building freeze in Jerusalem.

Herzog is also deeply committed to a two-state solution, something that is music to Obama’s ears and will be the selling point used by Kerry when he tries to entice Abbas back to the negotiating table should Labor win. But here again, harsh reality will intrude on Obama’s fantasy about a change in the prime minister’s office being a guarantee of peace.

Abbas has already rejected a two-state deal that included a Palestinian state in Gaza, almost all the West Bank, and a share of Jerusalem when Ehud Olmert offered him such an accord in 2008. He refused to even negotiate seriously with Netanyahu even though the prime minister accepted the two-state concept in 2009. Livni knows this because she was Netanyahu’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians for the past two years and has publicly complained that Abbas showed no interest in making a deal.

Will that change simply because Netanyahu isn’t in office? It’s theoretically possible, but given that the dynamic of Palestinian politics remains unchanged, it’s hard to see how things will be different. With Gaza still in the hands of Hamas and Abbas fearful of elections in the West Bank that he might lose (he is currently serving in the tenth year of a four-year term), it is highly unlikely. After years of avoiding being put in a position where he would have to commit political suicide by making peace, Abbas has no incentive to change now. So long as he and his people are unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, it doesn’t matter if the Likud, Labor, or any other Zionist party leads Israel, the outcome will be the same.

One would also expect a change in tone in discussions about Iran if Netanyahu doesn’t win. Yet Obama would be mistaken to think that Herzog would be any happier with a deal that allows the Islamist regime to become a nuclear threshold state than Netanyahu has been. Despite the carping at Netanyahu from many in the security establishment, there has always been a consensus among Israeli mainstream figures about the serious nature of the nuclear threat from Iran. The mild-mannered Herzog may express his disagreement with Obama in more measured tones, but the divide between the two countries over the desirability of détente with Iran is not one that will disappear with a Labor-led government. The same holds true about Iranian adventurism in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and even Gaza.

Those hoping for a Netanyahu defeat shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. The latest polls still show the Likud leading Labor. Moreover, even if Labor ties the Likud or earns a slight edge, it won’t be easy for Herzog to put a new government together. Though he has a path to a 61-seat majority, it is a precarious one involving discarding his Meretz ally and the Arab parties and making deals with centrist parties that are more natural partners for Likud. For that to be considered likely, Herzog’s party, which just fired its campaign strategist (always a bad sign this close to the voting) will have to beat Netanyahu’s Likud handily, something that doesn’t seem particularly likely at the moment.

But even if he does somehow win, the change will be one of personalities rather than on substance on the peace process. So long as the Arabs exercise their veto on peace, it really doesn’t matter who is prime minister of Israel. Neither Netanyahu nor Herzog will make peace with the Palestinians and there’s nothing Obama can do about it.

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Abbas and Charlie Hebdo: More Hypocrisy

Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a prominent participant in the Paris unity rally after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the slaughter at a kosher market. At the time, I noted the immense hypocrisy in having a figure who has engaged in Holocaust denial and who has also, even in the last few months, engaged in anti-Semitic incitement participate in such at an event. But weeks later we are learning that the disconnect between the symbolism of Abbas’s visible role in that unique moment and what he and his government are doing is even greater than we thought.

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Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a prominent participant in the Paris unity rally after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the slaughter at a kosher market. At the time, I noted the immense hypocrisy in having a figure who has engaged in Holocaust denial and who has also, even in the last few months, engaged in anti-Semitic incitement participate in such at an event. But weeks later we are learning that the disconnect between the symbolism of Abbas’s visible role in that unique moment and what he and his government are doing is even greater than we thought.

As today’s New York Times reports, Abbas has punished an editor of a PA publication that printed a cartoon that some readers thought might depict the Prophet Mohammed.

Mr. Abbas said it was necessary to take “deterrent measures against those responsible,” Wafa reported. Ali Khalaf, an editor at the newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, said on Tuesday that the cartoonist and the editor in chief of the paper had been suspended.

The cartoonist, Muhammed Sabaaneh, claimed that his drawing was meant to depict a Muslim who follows the message of Islam, not to depict the prophet himself. It was instead, “a symbolic figure for Islam and the Muslim’s role in spreading light and love for all humanity.” But if he thought that sort of thing would be accepted in a Palestinian media that routinely publishes articles and cartoons that demonize Jews and Israel, he was mistaken.

Of course, this isn’t the only indication that Abbas’s participation in the Parisian kumbaya moment was a farce. Weeks later, his Fatah Party issued a call for more “resistance” against Israelis, a code word for violence, and a hint that most Palestinians generally don’t need. Last fall, when Abbas and the PA incited Palestinians to attack Israelis in retaliation for the efforts by a few Jews to obtain equal prayer rights on the Temple Mount, there was no shortage of volunteers. For their pains, Abbas praised one attempted murderer as a “martyr” who went straight to heaven.

Why is Abbas pandering to such base sentiments? The answer came in part from a survey conducted in January by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency which revealed that 84 percent of those queried believe that Israel was behind the Paris attacks rather than Islamist terrorists. While deplorable, this is hardly surprising since, as Palestine Media Watch notes, the official PA press has been filled with articles claiming this to be the case. In fact the same paper that Abbas punished for publishing the supposedly offensive cartoon ran a piece claiming that Israel benefited from the crime and therefore must be held responsible for it.

That the PA is responsible for incitement is nothing new. Nor is this the first Abbas (currently serving the 10th year of a four-year term as president of the PA) has been directly involved in dictatorial behavior. But what is remarkable about this is the fact that those who celebrated Abbas’s participation in the Paris rally and lionize him as a genuine partner for peace have nothing to say about his post-march behavior.

Yet these incidents are significant, not because they demonstrate Abbas’s hypocrisy or the moral bankruptcy of the PA kleptocracy over which he presides. Rather, they are important because they illustrate that the pose of moderation that he puts on for the Western press and American and European consumption has nothing to do with the way he governs the West Bank. Those who continue to push for a revival of a peace process that Abbas has continually snubbed and blown up after his repeated refusals of peace offers must ignore the truth about him. If they acknowledged the reality of Abbas’s conduct it would compel them to admit how wrongheaded their assumptions about Palestinian intentions and Israeli culpability for the lack of peace truly are.

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Incitement Causes Routine Terror for Israel

The world was appalled earlier this month when Islamist terrorists committed a massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris. But there will be no similar fuss about the brutal attack on an Israeli bus earlier today in which a Palestinian attacker stabbed 12 Israelis leaving some in serious condition. The incident, which took place in Tel Aviv, was, after all, merely just one more in a series of numerous attacks on Israelis by Palestinians using knives, guns, and even cars to commit indiscriminate acts of terror on civilians that have left many dead and more wounded in the last several months. What lies behind the recent upsurge in terror? The cause isn’t a mystery nor is the failure of the international community to condemn those responsible.

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The world was appalled earlier this month when Islamist terrorists committed a massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris. But there will be no similar fuss about the brutal attack on an Israeli bus earlier today in which a Palestinian attacker stabbed 12 Israelis leaving some in serious condition. The incident, which took place in Tel Aviv, was, after all, merely just one more in a series of numerous attacks on Israelis by Palestinians using knives, guns, and even cars to commit indiscriminate acts of terror on civilians that have left many dead and more wounded in the last several months. What lies behind the recent upsurge in terror? The cause isn’t a mystery nor is the failure of the international community to condemn those responsible.

The key to understanding the increase in terror attacks is the willingness of both the Palestinian Authority and their Hamas rivals to incite hatred for both Israel and Jews in their official media and schools. Such incitement isn’t new but the recent efforts by Palestinian leaders to encourage terrorism in order to “defend” Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem against mythical Jewish attacks has created an atmosphere in which such acts are lauded in official media and often praised by their officials, including those like PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, as champions of peace.

It should be remembered that Abbas praised the Palestinian who attempted to assassinate a rabbi and activist who advocated for the right of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as a “martyr” who went “straight to heaven” when he was killed after a gunfight with Israeli soldiers. Using a tactic that has been tried by Palestinian leaders for a century, Abbas sought to inflate an argument over Jewish prayer rights—that were, ironically, opposed by the Israeli government—into a holy war.

Thus, it was no surprise that today’s attacker used the dispute over the Temple Mount as well as anger about the war launched by Hamas last summer as the excuse for his atrocity. As the New York Times reported, after the assailant was captured, he told Israeli police that he was inspired in part to try to kill random Jews by promises heard in an Islamic broadcast which spoke of “reaching paradise.” While the man, who was captured alive, did not get to Heaven and the promise of virgin rewards, he did have the consolation of being praised by Hamas spokespersons today as having committed a “heroic” act of “resistance.”

It is little wonder Israeli leaders are losing patience with Western governments that profess peace and advocate concessions to the Palestinians but find it hard to speak when it comes to condemning the acts that lead to Arab violence against Jews. Unlike most of the world, many Israelis rightly feel that attacks on Jews in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv should be seen in the same light as those on Jews in Paris. Indeed, the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, fueled as it is by Islamist propaganda against Israel, is in no small measure the product of attitudes and prejudices imported to the Continent from the Middle East.

Those European governments and United Nations agencies that have been vocal in advocating for recognition of Palestinian independence fail to take into account that what they are calling for is, in effect, the creation of terror states, whether it is Hamasistan in Gaza or the hate-fueled Fatah-run kleptocracy in the West Bank.

The volume of recent Palestinian attacks illustrates the dilemma for those seeking to prop up a dead-in-the-water peace process. So long as Abbas isn’t held accountable for the incitement committed by both the PA and its officials, it’s hardly surprising that he sees no reason to halt the incitement. But until he does, all talk of a revived peace process is just that much more evidence that the world doesn’t value spilled Jewish blood. When terror against Jews is considered too routine to get too worked up about, it’s a surefire sign that peace is nowhere in sight.

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Which Palestinian State Do They Want?

In the last week, Islamist terror in Europe has at least temporarily distracted the continent from its habitual foreign-policy obsession: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But in spite of the current focus on domestic terror, there can be little doubt that Europe’s parliaments and diplomats will soon be back campaigning to recognize a state of Palestine and for pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions in order to make that state a reality. But as a story in today’s New York Times illustrates, those in the international community that are so intent to pretend that a Palestinian state already exists and is need of international recognition need to figure out which one they are backing. Is it the Hamas terrorist state in Gaza? Or the corrupt Fatah state in the West Bank?

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In the last week, Islamist terror in Europe has at least temporarily distracted the continent from its habitual foreign-policy obsession: the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But in spite of the current focus on domestic terror, there can be little doubt that Europe’s parliaments and diplomats will soon be back campaigning to recognize a state of Palestine and for pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions in order to make that state a reality. But as a story in today’s New York Times illustrates, those in the international community that are so intent to pretend that a Palestinian state already exists and is need of international recognition need to figure out which one they are backing. Is it the Hamas terrorist state in Gaza? Or the corrupt Fatah state in the West Bank?

The Times focuses on one tragicomic example of the dysfunctional world of Palestinian politics. At the Beit Hanoun crossing point between Israel and northern Gaza, there are two Palestinian border checkpoints a half-mile apart. Those who seek to enter Gaza from Israel must pass through both, enabling both Fatah and Hamas to pretend to control the area. When Hamas sought to set up its own makeshift facility at the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority site, the system broke down and no one other than foreigners or Palestinians with emergencies was able to pass. Hamas backed down yesterday and the situation returned to normal but the anomalous situation remains as two governments attempt to carry on operations.

This was supposed to have been solved last year when PA leader Mahmoud Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas that would bring both areas under joint control. But the pact was more of a ruse intended to blow up the peace negotiations with Israel the PA had been forced into by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry than an actual attempt at unification. Though the two rival groups actually have much in common—principally a commitment to ongoing conflict with Israel and an aversion to recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn—they are bitterly divided by conflicting financial interests as well as ideologies.

Both lack democratic legitimacy. Hamas won elections but to speak of a terrorist group coercing a population to back them is antithetical to any notion of the rule of law. Though hailed as moderates by the international community, Abbas and Fatah are even worse in that respect, as they have shunned elections for years for fear of losing to Hamas because of the latter’s better credentials in terms of shedding Israeli blood. Abbas still calls himself PA president, but that is more a matter of courtesy than anything else since he is serving in the 10th year of a four-year term to which he was elected.

Both promote hate against Israel in their official media and schools making peace less likely with each generation of children more steeped in the violent language of the conflict and a sense that all violence against Jews is to be condoned than the one that preceded it. What the two also have in common is a corrupt political system. Both rule by distributing money to large numbers of no-show or no-work government employees. Spreading the wealth around in this manner means that a huge percentage of Palestinians are directly dependent on either the PA or Hamas. This frees up the elites of both groups to loot the vast sums donated to help the Palestinians by foreign governments for either personal use or to pay for terror activities. Thus while Fatah runs a kleptocracy that saps the economy of the West Bank and stifles development, the more religious Hamas thieves use their international aid for rockets and terror tunnels rather than personal enrichment. The former is despicable, but the latter is certainly more dangerous.

But the division between the two is real, as Hamas operates an independent state in all but name and Fatah runs most of the West Bank with Israel only intervening to try to hunt down terror suspects.

The point of drawing attention to this division is not just to understand that sovereignty over a single Palestinian state is a myth and would not be resolved by international recognition. Rather, it is to bring to the attention of the world that by empowering either or both, they are laying the foundation for generations of future conflict rather than peace.

The common Palestinian political culture both Hamas and Fatah share is one in which their national identity is inextricably tied up with a war against Zionism. Though Fatah can sound more moderate than Hamas, especially when its leader is addressing the international and Israeli press rather than domestic audiences, it is just as locked into the idea that making peace on any terms would be a betrayal of their basic principles.

Giving more power to either or both would be to ensure more war for the Middle East. In the case of the West Bank, that would mean a repeat of the experiment whereby Israel withdrew every last soldier, settler, and settlement and instead of getting peace, saw the strip transformed into a terrorist launching pad/fortress.

All of which takes us back to our original question. If European governments and their parliaments are so concerned about the wellbeing of ordinary Palestinians, instead of pouring more money directly into the hands of Fatah or indirectly to Hamas via aid groups, they should insist on reform of both. More to the point, they should refrain from creating one or two more terror states that will strengthen the very forces of Islamist intolerance that have brought bloodshed to their streets. Sympathy for the Palestinians is understandable. Seeking to further empower Hamas and/or Fatah is a prescription for chaos and violence.

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Abbas in Paris: Hypocrisy Isn’t Progress

The presence of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at today’s unity rally in Paris probably seemed quite natural to those whose knowledge of his activities is limited to the statements praising him as a champion of peace from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. But the baggage Abbas, who was given an unusually prominent place in the front rank of the march symmetrically balancing the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the other side of French President Francois Hollande, carried a great deal of baggage to the event in terms of his own association with terrorism and fomenting of hate against Jews. The instinct of the news media is to embrace Abbas’s presence there along with that of Netanyahu as proof that the march was a transcendent kumbaya moment that will mark a turning point in the struggle against terror and anti-Semitism. But the question more sober observers will struggle with is whether Abbas’s poor record on these issues does more to undermine progress than the symbolism did to advance it.

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The presence of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at today’s unity rally in Paris probably seemed quite natural to those whose knowledge of his activities is limited to the statements praising him as a champion of peace from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. But the baggage Abbas, who was given an unusually prominent place in the front rank of the march symmetrically balancing the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the other side of French President Francois Hollande, carried a great deal of baggage to the event in terms of his own association with terrorism and fomenting of hate against Jews. The instinct of the news media is to embrace Abbas’s presence there along with that of Netanyahu as proof that the march was a transcendent kumbaya moment that will mark a turning point in the struggle against terror and anti-Semitism. But the question more sober observers will struggle with is whether Abbas’s poor record on these issues does more to undermine progress than the symbolism did to advance it.

Why question Abbas at all?

Though the Obama administration and all of Europe treats him as a hero of peace, his personal record as well as that of his government gives the lie to such assurances. His critics will bring up his long service as a deputy to arch terrorist Yasir Arafat as well as his doctoral thesis denying the truth of the Holocaust. But we don’t have to go back to the period preceding his service as president of the PA (an office in which he is currently serving in the 10th year of the four-year term to which he was elected). Since taking over the PA after Arafat’s death, Abbas has not only turned down peace offers and refused to negotiate seriously with Israel, he has repeatedly stated that he will never accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. He has also continued to support the “right of return,” which is inconsistent with Israel’s existence though at times he has said things to the English and Israeli press that contradicts those given to his own people.

Moreover, rather than standing in unity with the world against terrorism, Abbas signed a unity pact with Hamas terrorists last year, an act that blew up the peace talks Secretary of State Kerry worked to keep alive.

But even more than that, Abbas has in recent months personally incited his people to commit acts of violence as part of an effort to falsely convince them that the mosques on the Temple Mount are in danger. Abbas’s praise of a terrorist who tried to assassinate a rabbi advocating Jewish prayer rights on the Mount as someone who went straight to heaven tells us all we need to know about the PA. This is, of course, in addition to the steady drumbeat of incitement against Jews and Israel on the official PA media controlled by Abbas. Indeed, had the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market murderers committed their acts in Israel, there is little doubt that Abbas would have honored them by naming a square or some edifice after them. It is also certain that had they been captured alive after taking part in an act of terrorism, he would have supported taking Israeli hostages in order to free them in a prisoner exchange, after which he would have greeted them as heroes as he has terrorists who committed equally heinous crimes against Jews.

One may say that, to use Francois de La Rochefoucauld’s memorable phrase, Abbas’s presence at the rally is a classic case of hypocrisy being “the homage vice pays to virtue.” But any good that might come from the symbolism of Abbas being there also reminds us that it will take more than one rally, however impressive it might have been, to defeat Islamist terror. What France and the world need to do to defeat terror is to acknowledge that the problem lies not so much in the few who commit these acts but in the vast number of people in the Muslim and Arab worlds that either rationalize or support such acts. Progress will come not when Mahmoud Abbas marches in Paris but when he stops supporting it at home. Until then, inviting him to such events only undermines the purpose of the rally.

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Palestinians Should Be Wary of ICC Gambit

In the wake of their failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to vote to recognize their independence without first making peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has begun the process of joining the International Criminal Court, where they will, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, become full members on April 1. Their goal is to use this platform to harass Israel and to launch war-crimes trials against the Jewish state. This is widely seen as a credible threat against the Israelis who have been unfairly assailed for their conduct when fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the PA shouldn’t be so eager to head to court. The efforts of Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center to charge Palestinian leaders with war crimes could turn the tables on them in a way that may cause them to regret their decision.

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In the wake of their failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to vote to recognize their independence without first making peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has begun the process of joining the International Criminal Court, where they will, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, become full members on April 1. Their goal is to use this platform to harass Israel and to launch war-crimes trials against the Jewish state. This is widely seen as a credible threat against the Israelis who have been unfairly assailed for their conduct when fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza. But the PA shouldn’t be so eager to head to court. The efforts of Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center to charge Palestinian leaders with war crimes could turn the tables on them in a way that may cause them to regret their decision.

Though the U.S. has rightly argued that as a non-state, the PA cannot actually be part of the ICC, the UN has gone along with this farce. This will allow the Palestinians to begin making mischief for the Israelis by filing suits that will publicize a raft of specious charges all aimed at branding it as an “apartheid state” run by war criminals. This gambit not only helps the Palestinians avoid peace talks where they might be forced to either make peace with Israel or admit that they will never do so. It also aids their ongoing efforts to delegitimize Israeli self-defense against terrorist attacks like Hamas’s use of tunnels for cross-border kidnapping/murder raids and the launching of thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.

But the PA has opened up a Pandora’s box that they may not be able to close before it damages their own cause.

Shurat HaDin has gained an impressive reputation in the last decade for its vigorous efforts to use the law to hold Palestinian terror groups responsible for their crimes. It has successfully sued Palestinian groups and their backers for their involvement in terrorism. That has placed funders of terrorism and banks which make such actions possible in peril as their victory in federal court in New York showed last September when Jordan’s Arab Bank was held responsible for its role in passing along funds to Hamas. It is also poised to land another blow to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization after a federal appeals court ruled this week that it could proceed with a $1 billion suit filed by the group on behalf of dozens of U.S. citizens and their families that were victims of Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada.

But even as the PA readies its efforts to attack the Israelis at the ICC, Shurat HaDin is preparing its own assault on both Fatah and Hamas. On Monday, it filed charges of war crimes, terrorism, and human-rights offenses against three members of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party: PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, minister Jibril Rajoub, and PA intelligence chief Majad Haraj. Prior to this, it had filed similar charges against Abbas as well as Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Skepticism about the willingness of any international agency to deal fairly with Israel is justified. The UN is a stacked deck against the Jewish state and it is possible that the ICC will prove to be just as biased. But as a judicial body, the ICC isn’t quite as easy to manipulate as other UN agencies. That means that evidence and truth will play a far larger role in their proceedings than at the UN General Assembly. And that is very bad news for the Palestinians.

After all, the actions of Hamas and Fatah in carrying out terror attacks, using civilians as human shields, and violating international law are not open to much dispute. Nor is the fact that the PA and Hamas violently oppress their own people.

As Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told the Times of Israel:

“Abbas and his friends in terror organizations believe that the courts can be used as a weapon against Israel, while at the same time, the Palestinian leadership carries out crimes with utter impunity against their own people and against Israeli civilians.

“The PA and Hamas have to understand that the International Criminal Court is a double-edged sword,” Darshan-Leitner said. “Years of murder, acts of terrorism and incitement will now be brought before prosecutors for investigation.”

False prosecutions brought against it in the ICC may well tie up Israel. But the same can just as easily be said about the Palestinians. Though they may have an international community that has proved tolerant of anti-Semitism on their side, the Palestinians need to understand that they are at least as vulnerable as the Israelis if not more so. The world’s hypocrisy when it comes to attacks on Jews has convinced them that they have nothing to lose. By putting their own actions under a legal microscope, there’s little chance that the PA will come out of this unscathed, let alone victorious.

Though these cases are likely to be dragged out over the years, the Palestinians may come to regret their decision to use the UN to wage lawfare against Israel. Before it’s done, Shurat HaDin’s successful record in various courts may make Abbas and his cronies wish they had never heard of the ICC.

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The Palestinian ‘Quest for Statehood’ Is Designed to Prevent Statehood

I often criticize the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the New York Times, and especially Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. But credit where it’s due: in an otherwise silly “news analysis” about the Palestinians’ strategy of getting international organizations to pretend the territories are a full-fledged state, Rudoren hits on a crucial aspect to the Palestinian farce. In the process, she sheds some light on PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s true intentions.

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I often criticize the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the New York Times, and especially Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. But credit where it’s due: in an otherwise silly “news analysis” about the Palestinians’ strategy of getting international organizations to pretend the territories are a full-fledged state, Rudoren hits on a crucial aspect to the Palestinian farce. In the process, she sheds some light on PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s true intentions.

The story, headlined “Palestinians Seen Gaining Momentum in Quest for Statehood,” mostly misses the point, as usual. The truth is that the Palestinians could have had a state already–not only in the course of Israel’s existence but several times since 2000 alone–and turned it down. They were also the ones to blow up the last series of peace talks. So any story that takes the idea that the Palestinians are on a “quest for statehood” at face value is showing its bias right off the bat.

What the Palestinians are doing, instead, is trying to join international organizations as a way to get the world to increase its pressure on Israel to retreat to the nonexistent borders of the pre-June 1967 lines. This is not a quest for statehood; it’s just another way to take advantage of the anti-Israel mood of much of the world. Rudoren writes:

When the Palestinians sought statehood at the United Nations in 2011, it was widely dismissed as a symbolic gambit to skirt negotiations with Israel and Washington’s influence over the long-running conflict. But the Palestinians have begun to translate a series of such symbolic steps, culminating in last week’s move to join the International Criminal Court, into a strategy that has begun to create pressure on Israel.

While many prominent Israelis have called for unilateral action to set the country’s borders, it is Palestinians who have gained political momentum with moves made outside of negotiations. The Palestinians are, in effect, establishing a legal state. International recognition, by 135 countries and counting, is what Palestinians are betting could eventually force changes on the ground — without their leaders having to make the concessions or assurances they have long avoided.

That bit about the Palestinians “establishing a legal state” is absurd. There is an operative definition in international law of a state. The Palestinian territories do not yet meet that definition. Additionally, as the Montevideo Convention plainly states: “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.”

The Times story is thus far too credulous toward the Palestinians, and sets the “analysis” off immediately in the wrong direction. But somewhere along the line it finds its way back to reality long enough to make clear what Abbas’s gambit is all about:

There is also a sense that Mr. Abbas could benefit if the Palestinians’ unilateral approach bolsters Mr. Netanyahu and other conservatives in the upcoming Israeli elections. Some analysts say his center-left opponents, more clearly committed to the two-state solution, would be more palatable to Europe and force the Palestinians back to negotiations.

The rest of the story is just noise. This is the point. Abbas is so opposed to peace with Israel that even his cheerleaders at the Times point out that he actually benefits from any move that pushes the two sides farther apart. Once upon a time, commentators scolded Israel for supposedly elevating Palestinian rejectionists and extremists. But now by their own account Abbas is the Palestinian extremist. He is the one who benefits from any development that prevents peace.

Of course, the Times is probably overstating any prospective change in Israeli foreign policy, another of the Western media’s hobbyhorses. Even if Netanyahu’s “center-left” opponents win the election, they would struggle to form a governing coalition because of the simple fact that Netanyahu is a centrist in the modern Israeli political sphere. If any party other than Likud won the election, they would have to form a coalition with parties to their right. Netanyahu was the one who brought in Labor when he formed a governing coalition in 2009 and tried to get Kadima in as well. He then brought in Livni in his second term and let her run peace talks, despite the fact that she only won a few seats in the Knesset.

Indeed, a Likud-led government that lets peace processers like Livni lead negotiations is basically the ideal government from the perspective of those who support the two-state solution. It mutes some of the opposition from the right while putting a dedicated peacenik in the driver’s seat, in effect letting the left have a say in important matters of state even though they weren’t elected to do so. It does a pretty good job of approaching a consensus.

Could the left have such a free hand in a weak, partisan coalition, or in a coalition that is stronger but depends on the right to stay afloat? Doubtful. But Abbas doesn’t even want to take the chance. And until he does, all talk of a Palestinian “quest for statehood” merely feeds Abbas’s appetite to prevent it.

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Who Derailed Middle East Peace? Ross and Obama Should Look in the Mirror.

On yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page, former veteran State Department Middle East hand Dennis Ross made a strong case for the world to stop “giving the Palestinians a pass” for actions intended to derail the peace process. In doing so Ross is taking up the cudgels for the position of the Obama administration against that of its European allies on the question of tolerating a Palestinian diplomatic offensive at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Both he and the administration are correct that the Palestinian Authority is sabotaging peace by abandoning negotiations and seeking instead to use international pressure to brand Israel as a pariah. But what Ross leaves out of his argument is as interesting as what he says. The proof that his position is correct lies in the history of his own failures and that of the administrations he served as they wrongly appeased the Palestinians and instead pressured Israel.

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On yesterday’s New York Times op-ed page, former veteran State Department Middle East hand Dennis Ross made a strong case for the world to stop “giving the Palestinians a pass” for actions intended to derail the peace process. In doing so Ross is taking up the cudgels for the position of the Obama administration against that of its European allies on the question of tolerating a Palestinian diplomatic offensive at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Both he and the administration are correct that the Palestinian Authority is sabotaging peace by abandoning negotiations and seeking instead to use international pressure to brand Israel as a pariah. But what Ross leaves out of his argument is as interesting as what he says. The proof that his position is correct lies in the history of his own failures and that of the administrations he served as they wrongly appeased the Palestinians and instead pressured Israel.

Ross deserves credit for mentioning some facts that are almost never mentioned in either the news or opinion pages of the Times. Namely, that the Palestinians rejected three clear offers of peace and independence in 2000, 2001, and 2008 that would have given them a state in almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem, and Gaza. The first two were turned down flat by Yasir Arafat while his successor Mahmoud Abbas fled the negotiating table rather than be forced to give an answer to the third. He might have added that Abbas refused to discuss a U.S. framework along the same lines in 2014 and blew up those talks that had been painstakingly nurtured by Secretary of State John Kerry.

But in discussing the Europeans’ foolish insistence on backing a Palestinian diplomatic gambit whose only purpose is to avoid peace negotiations rather than jumpstart them, Ross ought to mention the sorry history of U.S. diplomatic efforts that were based on the same wrongheaded premise.

Ross served as a U.S. diplomat for decades and was a principal architect of the Clinton administration’s Middle East policies and subsequently advised candidate Barack Obama and then assumed a major State Department post in his administration. The keynote of both Clinton and Obama’s attitudes toward the Palestinians was a desire to whitewash the Palestinian Authority’s violations of its peace pledges in the Oslo Accords and a predilection to pressure the Israelis instead of the other side. Though some criticized Ross as too disposed to take Israeli attitudes into account, that was in the context of administrations that were dedicated to tilting the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ direction. Even he admitted that the Clinton administration had made a mistake when it decided not to take Arafat’s undermining of the peace process and the PA’s fomenting of hatred against Israel and Jews seriously.

This is a crucial point today because just as Arafat thought he could act with impunity because of the West’s bias against Israel, the same factor motivated Abbas to sandbag Kerry in the peace talks. Indeed, Obama and Kerry were so concerned about not ruffling the Palestinians’ feathers that they responded to Abbas’s decision to make peace with Hamas instead of Israel and to make an end run to the UN by blaming Israel for the problem. Abbas’s conclusion from this decision was entirely logical. If he could behave in such a manner and still be rewarded with praise for himself and attacks on Israel, why shouldn’t he believe that even more of this would yield the same result. But in leading him to this conclusion, Kerry was only making the same mistake that Ross and others in the Clinton and Obama administrations had previously committed.

As right as he may be about the Europeans today, it is churlish of Ross to stand in judgment about their blind behavior without owning up to his past errors and those of the Obama administration. If he wants to lead an effort to evaluate the mistakes that have doomed peace efforts, rather than focusing on the wrongheaded policies of the Europeans, Ross should be looking in the mirror and issuing mea culpas for his own mistakes and those of Obama.

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Israel Agrees: Time to Call Abbas’s Bluff

For the past 20 years, whenever some Americans have raised the question of whether U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should be cut off, opponents have always trumped such calls by invoking a single point: the Israelis disagree. Even as the PA flouted its commitments under the Oslo Accords and acted in various ways that ought to, under U.S. law, mandate a halt to American aid, Israel’s various governments have always opposed such action. But in the wake of the PA’s failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to recognize their independence and decision to head to the International Criminal Court to further harass Israel, Jerusalem is preparing to ask Congress to finally enforce the law and end the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt Fatah government. Though the Obama administration disagrees, Congress should do just that.

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For the past 20 years, whenever some Americans have raised the question of whether U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should be cut off, opponents have always trumped such calls by invoking a single point: the Israelis disagree. Even as the PA flouted its commitments under the Oslo Accords and acted in various ways that ought to, under U.S. law, mandate a halt to American aid, Israel’s various governments have always opposed such action. But in the wake of the PA’s failed attempt to get the United Nations Security Council to recognize their independence and decision to head to the International Criminal Court to further harass Israel, Jerusalem is preparing to ask Congress to finally enforce the law and end the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt Fatah government. Though the Obama administration disagrees, Congress should do just that.

Why were the Israelis so reluctant to turn off the spigot of American cash to the PA up until now? The answer is that for all of its flaws, every Israeli government has always rightly viewed the PA as a necessary evil. Though under both Yasir Arafat and his successor Abbas the Fatah-run Authority has helped foment hatred as well allying itself with terrorists (as it did with its unity pact with Hamas last year), and even financed its own terror groups during the second intifada, it still performed a number of useful tasks. Israel is denounced as an occupier by the world but the PA governs most of the West Bank (not to mention the fact that Hamas-ruled Gaza functions as an independent Palestinian state in all but name). Israel would not wish to have that responsibility thrust upon it. The PA’s massive security forces also provide valuable cooperation for Israel. Moreover, the Israelis also understand that they always need an interlocutor to help keep a lid on the conflict if not to solve it.

It was for those reasons that the Israelis have always sent mixed messages about U.S. aid to the Palestinians. On the one hand, they wanted the Americans to try and hold the Palestinians accountable for their commitments. But whether or not those efforts were successful, they never wanted the plug pulled on the aid for fear of causing the PA to collapse, something that would create a mess that the Israelis would be forced to clean up.

Since all these factors still apply, what could be motivating the Israelis to change their tune?

The key reason is that by blowing up the latest U.S. attempt to negotiate peace with an end run to the UN and its affiliated agencies, the Palestinians have come to believe they can conduct a diplomatic war on Israel with impunity. So long as the PA thinks it can keep receiving the subsidies it gets from the U.S. and the rest of the West without keeping their commitments, there will never be any motivation for them to make peace. Worse than that, if they are not held accountable for a strategy based on perpetual conflict, Abbas and his crew won’t be deterred from further efforts to foment terror against Israelis. Rather than the aid buying a modus vivendi and a low level of violence if not peace, its continuance has had the opposite effect in that the PA thinks it has a blank check to avoid peace and the freedom to carry on the conflict in any manner it chooses.

Throughout the more than 20 years of the PA’s existence, both Israel and the U.S. have treated the PA with kid gloves. Both have at times acquiesced to the whitewashing of PA policies that were not only detrimental to coexistence but also a clear threat to any hope of peace. But the latest Palestinian attempt to isolate Israel has taken this to a new level. If the PA is allowed to not only further isolate Israel internationally but is permitted to use the biased machinery of the ICC to brand it a pariah, it will be setting in motion a series of events that will only lead to more violence.

That is why Israel is withholding the tax revenues it normally passes along to the PA as well as advising Congress to put a halt to its generous aid. In response, Abbas’s aide Saeb Erekat has said the PA may just dissolve itself, ending security cooperation and saddling the Israelis with the unwanted and difficult burden of governing the West Bank. These are serious threats, but Washington should call the PA’s bluff immediately.

The notion that Abbas and his Fatah kleptocracy would simply go home and abandon the huge patronage scheme they have created on the West Bank is absurd. Abbas operates his Ramallah government for the sake of his party and cronies, not for Israel. Power and the ability to skim money from international aid is not a sideline for Fatah; it is their raison d’être. He needs the money he gets from Israel and international donors to keep his organization going. That is why it is reasonable to suppose that if he felt that there was a genuine threat to its existence, he would abandon his UN gambit even if he continued to talk about it for domestic purposes. Moreover, the security cooperation with Israel is as much if not more in Abbas’s interests as it is in that of the Jewish state. He relies on Israel to protect him against threats to his life and his government from Hamas and other terror groups backed by Iran. Without the Israelis, his future isn’t worth a shekel.

Having shown that appeasement of the PA doesn’t work, it’s time for both the U.S. and Israel to put the hammer to Abbas and remind him that the money he gets from American taxpayers comes at a price. While there are many Palestinians who might be willing to send the West Bank up in flames for the purpose of furthering their century-old war on Israel, the corrupt leaders of the PA have other priorities. It’s time for Congress, acting with the support of the Israelis, to remind him of that.

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Fatah Celebrates Anniversary with Incitement to Genocide

Fatah, the Palestinian movement founded by Yasir Arafat (who, ironically, was not actually Palestinian but rather the son of an Egyptian textile merchant) just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mind you, it was the anniversary not of its founding as has been widely reported, but rather the anniversary of its first murder of Jews.

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Fatah, the Palestinian movement founded by Yasir Arafat (who, ironically, was not actually Palestinian but rather the son of an Egyptian textile merchant) just celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mind you, it was the anniversary not of its founding as has been widely reported, but rather the anniversary of its first murder of Jews.

True to form, it commemorated its murderous anniversary with this graphic of a pile of the skulls of dead Jews. True to form, Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth celebrated the application to join the International Criminal Court filed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas but could find no time to condemn the incitement that Abbas’s movement posted on its Facebook page.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss such graphics as part and parcel of Palestinian political culture. Certainly, that’s been the attitude of most State Department officials and peace processors since the peace process began. But, Roth says he believes not in the demonization of Israel but rather the universality of human-rights law (so long it is as he interprets it). Perhaps, though, if he wants not to appear a hypocrite with deep-seated animosity to the Jewish state, he might consider the work of Gregory Gordon, former legal officer of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, who has written that genocide cannot occur without incitement. He listed five questions relevant to defining such incitement: “Where was the statement made? Is it sufficiently public? Is it sufficiently direct? Is it permissible free speech or criminal incitement? What is the state of mind of the person uttering the statements—is there intent to incite?” To answer these with regard to the pile of Jewish skulls:

  • The statement was made on Fatah’s official Facebook page.
  • Yes, the page is public.
  • Yes, the statement is direct; there can be no misinterpreting it.
  • There appears every intent to incite; the graphic was time-consuming to create and apparently passed through the hierarchy for posting approval.
  • Certainly, the Palestinian Authority provides freedom to incite, even if it does not extend freedom of speech to such topics as criticizing Arafat, Abbas (currently serving the tenth year of his four-year presidential term), or the corruption of Abbas’s cronies.

Diplomats tend to whitewash opponents in an effort to keep the diplomatic process alive, but it’s not always possible to put lipstick on a pig. That said, Abbas once reserved such incitement for closed Palestinian audiences. It is only with the understanding that self-appointed judges of morality and law like Roth are so thoroughly politicized and uphold such a double standard that they feel emboldened to go public with celebration of terrorism and incitement to genocide.

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Why Do Palestinians Want Both Statehood and ‘Occupation?’

Today, the Hamas terrorists who rule the Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza once again demonstrated their lack of concern for the subjects by denying a group of war orphans a chance to spend a week in Israel. Their reason: doing so would involve the teens visiting “occupied cities” and “settlements” and would undermine their effort to perpetuate a century-old war against Zionism. That Hamas would continue to rail against “occupation” while enjoying virtual sovereignty over part of the country is no contradiction. It actually dovetails nicely with the stand of their Fatah rivals who are seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations this week while also clinging to an “occupation” that allows them to avoid making peace.

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Today, the Hamas terrorists who rule the Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza once again demonstrated their lack of concern for the subjects by denying a group of war orphans a chance to spend a week in Israel. Their reason: doing so would involve the teens visiting “occupied cities” and “settlements” and would undermine their effort to perpetuate a century-old war against Zionism. That Hamas would continue to rail against “occupation” while enjoying virtual sovereignty over part of the country is no contradiction. It actually dovetails nicely with the stand of their Fatah rivals who are seeking recognition of Palestinian statehood in the United Nations this week while also clinging to an “occupation” that allows them to avoid making peace.

Some will harp on the casual cruelty of denying a break to schoolchildren who have been harmed by war and who could use a chance to get out of the claustrophobic strip. But that would be a mistake. The key issue here is not the Islamist group’s insensitivity or even its reflexive hostility to Israel. Rather, it is the language used in explaining its decision to turn the bus with the 37 orphans back from the border:

“Security forces prevented 37 children of martyrs from entering the land occupied in 1948 for a suspicious visit to a number of settlements and occupied cities,” wrote Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bozom on Facebook Sunday. “This move came in order to safeguard our children’s education and protect them from the policy of normalization.”

Hamas’s harping on the occupied places that the orphans who were invited by Israel’s Kibbutz movement and two Israeli Arab towns is telling in that the places the kids were going to visit were not part of what the world is told is “occupied territory.” Indeed, every place on their itinerary was Israeli territory prior to the Six Day War in June 1967. For Hamas, “occupation” refers to any land on which the Jewish state may exist regardless of where its borders might be drawn. In this way, they make it clear that their “resistance” against “occupation” is not a protest about the West Bank or Jerusalem but a sign of their determination to wage war on Israel until it is destroyed. This renders moot if not absurd the conviction held by some on the Jewish left as well as the Obama administration that peace could still be obtained by an Israeli decision to trade land for peace.

Yet while this speaks volumes about the foolishness of those who believe Hamas is prepared to make peace, it should not be viewed as fundamentally different from the position of the Palestinian Authority as it tries to get the UN Security Council to vote to recognize their independence in all of the lands that Israel took during the Six Day War.

As the Times of Israel noted in a feature published on Friday, the PA is in the interesting position of demanding formally recognition of their sovereign rights while also insisting that all of that land — even areas that Israel does not control such as Gaza or those parts of the West Bank that are under PA rule — are “occupied.” This contradicts legal norms about statehood that can be accorded only to those that actually control the territory in question. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his followers say they merely wish to reverse the usual order so as to facilitate Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and even parts of Jerusalem where hundreds of thousands of Jews live in Jewish neighborhoods that have existed for decades. But this stand actually has much in common with the less presentable positions articulated by Hamas than is generally understood.

Had Abbas and the PA wanted a state they could have had one 14 years ago or the two other times when one was offered them by Israel under terms that are no different than those supported currently by the Obama administration and the Europeans. They are going to the UN not because they wish to actually have a state but because their desire is to avoid negotiations that might give them one if they were ever willing to actually sign a peace agreement with the Israelis.

Just like Hamas, which rails against “occupation” while governing what is functionally a Palestinian state, Abbas clings to policies that keep the status quo in place while still railing against it. The reason is that although its leader is wrongly proclaimed by Washington as a champion of peace, he and his movement are as committed to Israel’s destruction as Hamas. Accepting a state in the West Bank (with or without Hamas-ruled Gaza which would constitute a second Palestinian state) means not so much ending the “occupation” of that area as it does accepting that the parts of the country that are left to Israel must be considered part of a Jewish state and that the conflict is therefore ended for all time.

Until Fatah is willing to do that, its talk of statehood at the UN must be considered to be no different than Hamas’ blatant rejection of peace on any terms. And the sooner Western nations catch on to this fact and stop enabling the PA’s evasions, the better it will be for Palestinians and their children who need peace more than an unending and bloody war against Zionism.

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Open Season on Jews for Palestinians

Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was blasted by Israel for making statements that both incited terrorist attacks and for his praise of those who committed such actions. But the PA head, who is vowing to get a vote for his effort to have the United Nations Security Council recognize a Palestinian state without making peace first with Israel, noted that Western nations did not join in the criticism. Palestinians were similarly undaunted and the toll of terrorist attacks on Israelis in both Jerusalem and the West Bank has continued to rise. Just this week, Palestinians firebombed the car of a Jewish family resulting in life-threatening burns to an 11-year-old child. Days later, two policemen were stabbed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian who had just attended prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. But rather than these and other attacks generating international outrage, the world shrugs. Palestinians trying to kill Jews is so ordinary that few people, including many American Jews, think it worth the effort to complain about it.

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Last month, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was blasted by Israel for making statements that both incited terrorist attacks and for his praise of those who committed such actions. But the PA head, who is vowing to get a vote for his effort to have the United Nations Security Council recognize a Palestinian state without making peace first with Israel, noted that Western nations did not join in the criticism. Palestinians were similarly undaunted and the toll of terrorist attacks on Israelis in both Jerusalem and the West Bank has continued to rise. Just this week, Palestinians firebombed the car of a Jewish family resulting in life-threatening burns to an 11-year-old child. Days later, two policemen were stabbed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian who had just attended prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. But rather than these and other attacks generating international outrage, the world shrugs. Palestinians trying to kill Jews is so ordinary that few people, including many American Jews, think it worth the effort to complain about it.

In a sense those that think this way aren’t entirely wrong. Attacks on Jews on the roads in the West Bank have always been so commonplace as to not even raise many eyebrows in Israel. Indeed, the most interesting detail in the story about the firebombing that nearly killed an 11-year-old girl is that her mother said she barely escaped a similar fate recently when another firebomb just missed her.

The same is true of attacks in Jerusalem recently. The horrific stabbings of four rabbis at prayer in a Har Nof synagogue last month generated a momentary surge of interest in the surge in Arab terrorism that quickly dissipated. While that crime was considered more noteworthy, the numerous attempts by Palestinians to run down Jewish pedestrians or to stab or incinerate them in the weeks since that attack demonstrates that it was unique only in terms of the number of casualties and the barbaric methods used by the murderers.

Why does the world yawn when it hears of Palestinians attacking Jews?

One reason is that it reflects the same attitude that was reflected in a memorable exchange between Denmark’s ambassador to Israel and columnist Caroline Glick. The ambassador said that Israel should be happy about being judged by a double standard because no one expected the Palestinians to behave like Europeans while everyone thought the Israelis should. Such a stance is condescending to Palestinians who are assumed to be uncivilized and unlikely to act in a manner that is consistent with international norms.

But this attitude also reflects, as the ambassador noted in passing in his utterly unconvincing defense of his position, a sense that the Jews are the more powerful party in the conflict. In essence, the world thinks the Jews have it coming. This is what many in the world think is the fate a Jewish people that has survived two millennia of anti-Semitism and persecution and several Arab wars aimed at the destruction of their state deserves. No other people in the world have their right to sovereignty over their ancient homeland dismissed along with their right to self-defense in this manner. Such “special” treatment is an act of bias and the term for such prejudice when applied to Jews is anti-Semitism.

Palestinians leaders have declared open season on killing Jews and the world isn’t particularly interested. It is little surprise that Palestinians listen to their leaders and imams and throw gasoline bombs and attempt to run down or stab Jews whenever they can. Under these circumstances, this week’s casualties just like all those that have become before them, should expect little sympathy or notice from the international press.

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