Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinian Authority

‘Palestine’ is a Civil War Waiting to Happen

As Jonathan Tobin correctly noted earlier today, the possibility that Pope Francis didn’t really call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace” doesn’t change the fact that the Vatican definitely did recognize the “State of Palestine.” That’s a setback to the cause of peace for many reasons, which Jonathan detailed in an excellent post last week. But I’d like to go into more depth on one point he raised: the question of which “Palestine” the Church is recognizing. Because “Palestine” isn’t merely split between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza by a quirk of geography; it’s a civil war waiting to happen.

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As Jonathan Tobin correctly noted earlier today, the possibility that Pope Francis didn’t really call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace” doesn’t change the fact that the Vatican definitely did recognize the “State of Palestine.” That’s a setback to the cause of peace for many reasons, which Jonathan detailed in an excellent post last week. But I’d like to go into more depth on one point he raised: the question of which “Palestine” the Church is recognizing. Because “Palestine” isn’t merely split between the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza by a quirk of geography; it’s a civil war waiting to happen.

Just last week, for instance, Hamas blamed Fatah for a series of recent bombings in Gaza and arrested 12 Fatah members as suspects. Last November, Hamas reportedly bombed the homes and vehicles of several senior Fatah officials in Gaza, as well as the site of a planned Fatah rally to mark the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death; as a result, Fatah canceled both the rally and a planned visit to Gaza by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Last month, PA ministers who did visit Gaza left in a huff after Hamas placed them under house arrest in their hotel. The previous month, Abbas and one of his senior advisors separately urged Arab states to bomb Hamas out of Gaza.

Both sides routinely arrest each other’s members, and then accuse each other of torturing the detainees (usually accurately in both cases). Both also routinely accuse each other of collaborating with Israel – the worst crime in the Palestinian lexicon. Needless to say, none of this contributes to Hamas-Fatah brotherly love.

Indeed, the parties are so busy feuding with each other that they can’t provide for their people’s most basic needs, like reconstructing Gaza after last summer’s war with Israel. The reconstruction has made almost no progress in the eight months since the war ended, and astoundingly, everyone except Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth agrees that this is the fault of the feuding Palestinian governments rather than Israel. That, for instance, is the stated view of the Arab League, which is usually quick to blame Israel for anything. And it’s also the stated view of the European Union, which is generally equally quick to blame Israel for everything.

That the violence has remained relatively low-level despite the intensity of this hatred is due to one thing only: Israel. Hamas’s main fighting strength is concentrated in Gaza, while Fatah’s is concentrated in the West Bank, and these territories are currently separated by an impassible barrier – some 37 kilometers of Israeli territory. Moreover, Israeli troops in the West Bank have prevented Hamas from building up its forces there: Last August, for instance, Israel arrested dozens of Hamas operatives in the West Bank whom both Israel and Abbas said were plotting a coup against the Fatah-led government.

But both those barriers to war would disappear if the world had its way: Israeli troops would vacate the West Bank, and some kind of corridor through Israel would be created to link the West Bank to Gaza. At that point, there would be nothing to stop Hamas and Fatah from all-out war. Indeed, that’s precisely what happened after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005: Months of escalating violence ultimately erupted into war.

That war was bloody but swift. One week later, Hamas-ruled Gaza, 600 Palestinians were dead and thousands more had fled to the West Bank (Israel allowed the refugees through its territory). But since then, both sides have built up their forces considerably, so the next war might well be longer and bloodier. And I have yet to hear anyone explain quite how enabling such a war would benefit the Palestinians.

Thus anyone who really wants to create a Palestinian state should start by pressuring both Hamas and Fatah to address basic needs like reconstructing Gaza instead of spending all their time and energy feuding. That way, if and when such a state does emerge, it might actually be a good thing for the people who have to live in it rather than a disaster. And it would surely do far more to help the Palestinians right now than the empty recognition of a nonexistent state does.

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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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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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The Palestinian Victims of the West’s Israel Obsession

I’ve written frequently about how the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). Yet this obsession also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the Palestinians. Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

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I’ve written frequently about how the West’s obsession with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians helps perpetuate global misery by diverting attention from people in far greater distress (think Syrians or South Sudanese). Yet this obsession also perpetuates suffering among the one group it’s ostensibly supposed to help–the Palestinians. Three Jerusalem Post reports over the last week show why.

One warned that a leading Palestinian hospital is at risk of closure because of a $30 million debt. A major reason for this debt is that for years, the Palestinian Authority has failed to pay Mokassed Hospital for many of the patients it treats. This isn’t because the PA lacked money; it has ample funds to pay generous salaries to thousands of terrorists sitting in Israeli jails. Rather, it’s a matter of priorities: On the PA’s scale of values, paying terrorists for killing Israelis is evidently more important than paying doctors for healing Palestinians.

Almost 40 percent of the PA’s budget consists of foreign aid, with the vast majority coming from Western countries. The West is therefore uniquely placed to pressure the PA to alter its spending priorities. But it has never tried to do any such thing, because it only cares about what Israel does or doesn’t do.

Thus one factor that has recently exacerbated Mokassed’s problems has elicited worldwide condemnations: Israel’s withholding of tax revenues from the PA over the last two months in response to the latter’s egregious violations of the Oslo Accords, including joining the International Criminal Court. Yet even if Israel handed over that money tomorrow, there’s no reason to think the PA would suddenly start using it to pay Mokassed when it never did so in all the years before Israel halted the transfers.

In short, pressuring Israel won’t actually solve the problem; only pressuring the PA would do that. But since the West doesn’t care what the PA does, Palestinian patients will continue to suffer.

In the second report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon criticized the PA for failing to take control of Gaza’s border crossings as it promised to do after last summer’s war. This failure, he noted, has greatly delayed Gaza’s reconstruction, since the reconstruction mechanism devised by the UN and Western donors mandated PA control of the crossings in an effort to minimize diversions of dual-use materials to Hamas’s war machine.

But because Israel has never sealed its border with Hamas-controlled Gaza completely–it has sent in 62,000 tons of construction supplies since August despite the PA’s absence from the crossings–the real hardship has occurred along the Egyptian border. The Rafah border crossing is Gaza’s main gateway to the world, but it has been closed almost hermetically for months, because Cairo considers Hamas a terrorist organization and refuses to reopen Rafah as long as Hamas controls it.

A particularly horrific consequence ensued in November, when an 11-year-old Palestinian died because the Rafah closure prevented her from entering Egypt for needed medical treatment. So why didn’t she go to Israel instead? Because Hamas refuses to talk to Israel directly, so requests for medical entry permits from Gaza are sent through the PA. But according to Razan al-Halkawi’s relatives, the PA refused to forward her request because it was embroiled in one of its periodic spats with Hamas.

In short, the PA refused to do what was needed to enable al-Halkawi to get treatment in either Egypt or Israel. And so she died.

As the PA’s major donor, the West could be pressing the Palestinians to live up to their post-war commitments. But it won’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it doesn’t care.

Report number three: Thousands of Palestinians who bought homes in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi can’t move in because the city isn’t connected to the water system. Why? Because all West Bank water projects need approval by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which the PA has refused to convene for the last five years. Evidently, it would rather deprive its own people of better housing than agree to meet with Israeli officials.

Here, too, the West could use its financial leverage to press the PA to convene the panel and let Rawabi open. But it hasn’t, because if Israel can’t be blamed, it’s not interested.

In short, in numerous cases where the West could use its leverage over the PA to better the lot of ordinary Palestinians, it has refused to do so, because it only cares about Israel’s actions. And thus the biggest victims of the West’s Israel obsession have ended up being not Israelis, but the Palestinians themselves.

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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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Is It Misguided to Fight for Jewish Rights?

Lawfare is the term for the practice of employing legal proceedings to wage a kind of war on a country or cause. For the most part, the State of Israel has been on the receiving end of this effort as non-governmental organizations and others purporting to support the cause of human rights have attempted to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and to self-defense with specious efforts to arraign before the bar of justice. But not everybody in Israel believes the best way to counter these attacks is to play defense or simply ignore it. Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner founded Shurat HaDin—the Israel Law Center in 2004 to use the law to not only work for the rights of Jewish victims of terrorism but also to make the terrorists, state sponsors, and enablers in the business world pay for their crimes. For this she was rewarded with an article profiling her activities in yesterday’s New York Times that posed the question in its headline as to whether her work was “misguided,” a clear indication of the opinion of the paper’s editors. But that verdict can only be sustained if you believe those who support terrorism deserve legal impunity.

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Lawfare is the term for the practice of employing legal proceedings to wage a kind of war on a country or cause. For the most part, the State of Israel has been on the receiving end of this effort as non-governmental organizations and others purporting to support the cause of human rights have attempted to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and to self-defense with specious efforts to arraign before the bar of justice. But not everybody in Israel believes the best way to counter these attacks is to play defense or simply ignore it. Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner founded Shurat HaDin—the Israel Law Center in 2004 to use the law to not only work for the rights of Jewish victims of terrorism but also to make the terrorists, state sponsors, and enablers in the business world pay for their crimes. For this she was rewarded with an article profiling her activities in yesterday’s New York Times that posed the question in its headline as to whether her work was “misguided,” a clear indication of the opinion of the paper’s editors. But that verdict can only be sustained if you believe those who support terrorism deserve legal impunity.

The piece by Jodi Rudoren does provide us with yet another tortured food metaphor from the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief. In describing her relentless efforts to keep probing legal foes for weaknesses and to adopt the best strategies, Darshan-Leitner made an analogy to baking challah for the Sabbath. Rudoren uses that one line to attempt to gain some insight on her subject’s career but it doesn’t work.

Even less convincing is Rudoren’s effort to put down Darshan-Leitner as either a worthless publicity hound/profiteer or an impediment to the peace process. Indeed, who is the only source Rudoren can produce to justify the headline about the Law Center’s efforts being “misguided?” The Israeli attorney who had been defending the Palestinian Authority in cases relating to its financial support for terrorists described her as a “nuisance.” I’m sure his clients and others who believe those who commit terrorism against Jewish Americans and Israelis feel the same way. But it’s hard to see why anyone else would view her activities in that same light.

Rudoren also finds some anonymous sources that bash Darshan-Leitner for getting too much credit for cases that are ultimately litigated in American courts where, as an Israeli, she of course cannot practice. But that is hardly fair. She doesn’t claim to litigate all cases to conclusion herself. Nor could she. Her job is to set in motion proceedings that both publicize Palestinian terror to international publics that hear relatively little about the subject and build support for the effort. No wonder the Palestinians, other terror funders, and their mouthpieces want to silence her.

Not all of her efforts have been successful. In even those cases she has won, collecting judgments for those who sued those responsible for terror is easier said than done. But Darshan-Leitner has always rightly understood that the main point of these efforts is to change the narrative from false charges of Israeli war crimes to the real story of Middle East terrorism in which Palestinian and Islamist groups indiscriminately slaughter Jews and think there is no way they will ever be made to pay for their crimes.

The subtext of this criticism has little to do with the letter of the law or how much the Israel Law Center has collected from terror funders and enablers. For some in the media and on the political left, any effort on the part of Israelis or friends of Israel to draw attention to Palestinian terrorism is what is really “misguided.” From their perspective, knowing the truth about the PA is, in a sense, the biggest obstacle to peace, since the more we know about it and other terror funders, the less likely Israelis or Americans will be to trust them to keep their promises or to refrain from renewing the conflict even after Israel is eventually compelled to give up even more land in the vain hope of receiving peace in exchange. In particular, Darshan-Leitner’s recent successes in launching cases against the Arab Bank and the PA have drawn the ire of Israel’s critics.

As with the State Department’s refusal to tell the truth about Palestinian incitement, criticisms of the Israel Law Center’s cases is not so much about the facts or the law as it is about the bad manners of an Israeli who wants to uncover and publicize the truth about the Jewish state’s peace partners. It is that, and not her legal acumen or publicity, that is Darshan-Leitner’s real sin. It is one for which she will never find any forgiveness from the New York Times and other outlets who otherwise ignore her efforts.

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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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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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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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Obama Shouldn’t Oppose Effort to Hold Palestinians Accountable

For six years, the Obama administration has tried in vain to give the Palestinian Authority what it wanted. It has undermined Israel’s negotiating position at every turn and treated PA leader Mahmoud Abbas as a champion of peace even though he has repeatedly turned down opportunities to end the conflict. But by thumbing his nose at the U.S. at the United Nations Security Council with a doomed effort to pass a one-sided resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood and then heading to the International Criminal Court to pursue specious human-rights cases against Israel, Abbas may have finally gone one step too far. The new Congress can and probably will enact sanctions against the PA. The question is will the administration, which is the injured party in this nasty breakup, seek to prevent Congress from doing the right thing and holding the Palestinians accountable?

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For six years, the Obama administration has tried in vain to give the Palestinian Authority what it wanted. It has undermined Israel’s negotiating position at every turn and treated PA leader Mahmoud Abbas as a champion of peace even though he has repeatedly turned down opportunities to end the conflict. But by thumbing his nose at the U.S. at the United Nations Security Council with a doomed effort to pass a one-sided resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood and then heading to the International Criminal Court to pursue specious human-rights cases against Israel, Abbas may have finally gone one step too far. The new Congress can and probably will enact sanctions against the PA. The question is will the administration, which is the injured party in this nasty breakup, seek to prevent Congress from doing the right thing and holding the Palestinians accountable?

The end-run around the U.S.-sponsored peace process is not the first time the PA has flouted its commitment to negotiations under the 1993 Oslo Accords. For two decades, the PA, first under the leadership of Yasir Arafat and now of Abbas, has treated that famous peace deal and its follow-up agreements as merely pieces of paper to be discarded at will. It has sponsored terrorism, fomented hate for Israel and Jews, and refused to negotiate or even accept peace offers from Israel that offered them all they could reasonably hope for including an independent state in almost all the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem.

But in spite of these outrageous actions, the U.S. has not pulled the plug on the generous aid package that the PA received all these years. That has happened largely because the Clinton and Obama administrations have been so committed to the myth of Oslo that they have chosen to whitewash the PA. The Bush administration did the same thing once Abbas replaced Arafat. That did not advance peace but it allowed the Palestinians to think they would never be held accountable for their actions. Though legislation has been passed that would have cut off aid, presidential waivers were always exercised to prevent it from being enforced.

The same lessons applied in spades to the negotiations over the Palestinians’ decision to go to the UN. As even Tzipi Livni, who hopes to topple Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the March elections, told the New York Times last month, Abbas walked away from the talks even after the U.S. offered a framework that would have given them what they wanted and was okayed by the Israelis. Once the effort to get a UN resolution that would have given the Palestinians a state without having first made peace with Israel was in motion, the Obama administration made more noises about its reluctance to veto this destructive and pointless effort than exercising pressure on the PA.

But now that the PA is heading to the International Criminal Court for more mischief against Israel—a move that even warranted a stiff condemnation from the State Department—there can no longer be any doubt that the basis for U.S. aid to the Palestinians has been exploded.

Fortunately the leadership of the new Republican Congress seems to understand this and they are likely to pass new legislation that will seek to force an end to further subsidies for the PA. Given that it is President Obama’s policies and efforts to tilt the diplomatic playing field in their direction that have been undermined by the PA, it stands to reason the White House ought not to try to obstruct this effort. Yet, still besotted with their unrealistic dreams of making Middle East peace, the president and Secretary of State Kerry may argue that cutting off the PA will hurt the prospects for future negotiations.

What they need to come to grips with is the fact that Abbas is no more inclined to ever make peace with Israel than are his Hamas rivals. While it’s doubtful that the PA would ever actually sign an agreement that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, if the peace process is ever to be revived it can only happen when the Palestinians realize that the U.S. will not continue to subsidize an entity that is dedicated to obstructing peace.

If Obama and Kerry wish to fight an aid cutoff the Palestinians have given them very little room to maneuver or arguments with which to stop the GOP. Indeed, given the disillusionment about the PA among congressional Democrats, it’s likely that any legislation about the Palestinians might be passed with a veto-proof majority. House Speaker John Boehner and new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shouldn’t hesitate about pushing forward such legislation. If Obama and Kerry are smart, they will realize that this will strengthen their hands in future talks with the Palestinians, not weaken them.

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The Palestinian UN Flop and the Status Quo

Supporters of the Palestinians are lamenting the flawed strategy that led them to force a vote in the United Nations Security Council on statehood for them yesterday. The outcome was foreordained. The resolution endorsing statehood and mandating Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within two years failed to gain the nine votes needed for adoption. That allowed the Obama administration to avoid having to veto the measure. In response the Palestinians say they will go to the International Criminal Court to seek other ways to harass Israel. But no one should be fooled by this charade. While U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power chided the Israelis about seeing the vote as a “victory for an unsustainable status quo” it is not the Jewish state that wanted to avoid both peace and the possibility of change. It is the Palestinian Authority that is desperate to keep things as they are, not the Israelis.

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Supporters of the Palestinians are lamenting the flawed strategy that led them to force a vote in the United Nations Security Council on statehood for them yesterday. The outcome was foreordained. The resolution endorsing statehood and mandating Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank within two years failed to gain the nine votes needed for adoption. That allowed the Obama administration to avoid having to veto the measure. In response the Palestinians say they will go to the International Criminal Court to seek other ways to harass Israel. But no one should be fooled by this charade. While U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power chided the Israelis about seeing the vote as a “victory for an unsustainable status quo” it is not the Jewish state that wanted to avoid both peace and the possibility of change. It is the Palestinian Authority that is desperate to keep things as they are, not the Israelis.

The text of the resolution betrayed its true purpose. Some of the Palestinians’ supporters claim that the resolution was a reasonable attempt to force Israel to negotiate peace. But what Powers rightly characterized as the resolution’s “deeply unbalanced” nature, made it clear that this entire episode was merely a stunt. By seeking a UN diktat that would have required Israel to withdraw from territory without requiring the Palestinians to make first make peace, the resolution did nothing to advance a spirit of compromise or make such a state a reality.

As even Tzipi Livni, one of the leaders of the new coalition seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s March election told the New York Times’ Roger Cohen earlier this month, it was PA head Mahmoud Abbas who sabotaged the peace talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry. Livni, who represented Israel in the talks, said Netanyahu had agreed to continue the process on the basis of a U.S. proposal on borders, refugees, security, settlements and Jerusalem. But as he did when Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians everything they had asked for, Abbas refused to negotiate and instead sought to torpedo the initiative by going to the UN. This marked the fourth time the Palestinians had refused to accept proposals for statehood in the last 15 years.

That means that instead of negotiating on the basis of a statehood framework pushed by a sympathetic American administration that could have given them what they supposedly desire, the Palestinians preferred to push for a UN resolution that could never have passed and which undermined the chances of ever arriving at a two-state solution to the conflict.

Why do the Palestinians prefer to flop at the UN to conducting negotiations that are already tilted in their favor by the Obama administration? The answer is obvious. Because accepting statehood under such circumstances would require them to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as the nation state of the Jewish people, no matter where its borders are drawn. They won’t do this because that would mean the end of the conflict and the whole point of Palestinian nationalism since its inception was not so much to grant sovereignty over part of the country to Arabs but to deny it to the Jews. Rather than accept a state that would be obligated to live in peace with a Jewish state, the Palestinians much prefer to engage in sterile debates in international forums that go nowhere but do advance the cause of Israel’s demonization.

Thus, the real champion of a supposedly “unsustainable status quo” is not an Israeli government that has repeatedly sought to make peace on the dubious premise that territorial withdrawals will grant them security and legitimacy. Rather, it is a Palestinian leadership that is both incapable of unwilling to do anything more than foment hatred of the Jewish state. Advocates of a two-state solution must understand that its primary opponents are not really the Israeli right-wingers who publicly oppose such schemes but rather Palestinians who will do anything to avoid negotiating a deal that would provide them with sovereignty at the cost of ending their century-old war on Zionism.

That is deeply frustrating for both American and Israelis who would like to believe, despite the evidence of the last 20years of peace processing, that more concessions will somehow entice the Palestinians to end the conflict. But after a fourth diplomatic dead-end on statehood and the prospect of more UN stunts to come, it is time to place the blame for the lack of peace where it belongs: on the shoulders of a Palestinian leadership that would rather bloviate at the UN than negotiate a solution that would finally end this war.

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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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Kerry Lets Abbas Off the Hook Again

After a summit held in Jordan with its King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced himself satisfied that the dispute over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is on its way to being resolved. After hearing from both the Israelis and the Jordanians as well as meeting separately with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry admonished the parties to make good on their pledges to take “concrete steps” to ease tensions. Let’s hope Kerry is right that the worst is over in this latest episode and that a series of murders of Jews will prove to be a passing incident rather than a new intifada. But by giving Abbas a pass for his material role in inciting the violence, Kerry once again proved tone deaf to the reality of the conflict and the reason why his peace initiative failed.

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After a summit held in Jordan with its King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced himself satisfied that the dispute over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is on its way to being resolved. After hearing from both the Israelis and the Jordanians as well as meeting separately with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry admonished the parties to make good on their pledges to take “concrete steps” to ease tensions. Let’s hope Kerry is right that the worst is over in this latest episode and that a series of murders of Jews will prove to be a passing incident rather than a new intifada. But by giving Abbas a pass for his material role in inciting the violence, Kerry once again proved tone deaf to the reality of the conflict and the reason why his peace initiative failed.

The problem with Kerry’s evenhanded approach to the dispute disregards what actually happened. Israel has maintained the status quo on the Temple Mount in which Muslim religious authorities have complete control of the ancient site and Jews are allowed to visit but forbidden to pray. Some Jews have urged this be changed to give them the right to worship there too but the Netanyahu government, following in the footsteps of all its predecessors, has blocked this effort.

But that hasn’t satisfied the PA which has used this issue as a way to compete with Hamas in the battle for Palestinian public opinion. Rather than seeking to promote calm, Abbas deliberately ratcheted up tensions in recent month as he called on his people to do everything necessary to prevent Jews from “contaminating” the Temple Mount with their presence. When one Palestinian attempted to murder an activist who advocated Jewish prayer there, Abbas praised him as a “martyr” and said he went straight to heaven after being shot by police. Though many, including the New York Times, have tried to put forward the idea that the growing violence constitutes a “leaderless” intifada, the truth is, the unrest and violence is the direct result of two decades of PA incitement via its official media and schools. Abbas’s statements as well as the daily drumbeat of incitement from the PA media has created an atmosphere of religious war in which Muslims think the Jews are going to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. The result has been entirely predictable in the form of a rash of “lone wolf” terror attacks on Jews — applauded by both Hamas and Fatah — that have taken several lives.

This is, of course, straight out of the traditional playbook of Palestinian nationalism having been first employed by Haj Amin el-Husseini, the pre-World War Two mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi ally, who helped incite several pogroms against Jews. As it was then, the point of the manufactured furor is not to push back against mythical Jewish attacks on Muslim rights or the mosques but to deny any rights — either historical or political — for Jews in Jerusalem or anywhere else in the country. As with the rest of a conflict that the PA could have ended several times in the last 15 years had it accepted Israeli peace offers of independence, pouring oil on this fire is a function of Palestinian resistance to the idea of any Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem or Israel, not a dispute that can be solved by good faith negotiations.

In playing the Temple Mount card, Abbas is walking a fine line between an attempt to boost his stock vis-à-vis Hamas and suicide since it is Israel that protects him against Hamas. Jordan, which has been forced by Abbas’s antics to condemn Israel as well, is similarly dependant on support for Israel, but can’t be seen to be against Palestinian terror if it is perceived as a “defense” of Arab rights.

But while we hope that this chapter is coming to a close, Kerry’s complacent pox on both your houses approach to Israel and the PA is only encouraging more Palestinian intransigence and violence. What was needed here was a direct U.S. condemnation of Abbas’s egregious incitement that led to bloodshed. But in its absence the likelihood grows that Abbas will continue to court disaster in his effort to boost his waning political clout in the West Bank. Kerry and President Obama’s continued effort to portray Abbas as a force for peace while flinging insults at Netanyahu is a formula for more unrest as well as an attack on the U.S.-Israel alliance.

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Obama, Abbas, and ‘Contaminating’ Jews

In a follow-up to his now infamous column in which he quoted “senior administration officials” hurling vulgar insults at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg echoed the Obama foreign-policy team in praising Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as “the best interlocutor Israel is going to have” in the pursuit of peace. Though he acknowledged the Palestinian had “flaws,” the onus for the lack of progress toward peace was placed squarely on Israel, which was urged to take measures to appease Abbas. Given that Abbas’s “flaws” had already demonstrated his utter lack of interest in making peace, Goldberg’s incendiary pieces told us more about Obama’s animus for Israel than the state of the peace process. But Abbas’s most recent bouts of incitement toward violence place those who have vouched for him in a difficult spot and make their current silence about his activities all the more reprehensible.

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In a follow-up to his now infamous column in which he quoted “senior administration officials” hurling vulgar insults at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg echoed the Obama foreign-policy team in praising Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas as “the best interlocutor Israel is going to have” in the pursuit of peace. Though he acknowledged the Palestinian had “flaws,” the onus for the lack of progress toward peace was placed squarely on Israel, which was urged to take measures to appease Abbas. Given that Abbas’s “flaws” had already demonstrated his utter lack of interest in making peace, Goldberg’s incendiary pieces told us more about Obama’s animus for Israel than the state of the peace process. But Abbas’s most recent bouts of incitement toward violence place those who have vouched for him in a difficult spot and make their current silence about his activities all the more reprehensible.

Abbas helped launch the latest round of Palestinian violence by urging his people to resist Jews who venture onto the Temple Mount by all means. Those means turned out to be murder and when the PA head praised a slain terrorist who had attempted to murder a Jewish activist as a “martyr” who was heading straight to heaven, it showed just how far he was willing to go to capitalize on traditional memes of Palestinian hatred for Jews. Today, in the wake of more fatal car attacks and stabbings of Jews, Abbas doubled down on the hate. Referring to the attempts by some Jews to gain the right to pray on what it the holiest site in Judaism, Abbas was reported as saying the following in the Times of Israel:

“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas demanded. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they enter al-Aqsa, [we] will protect al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country,” he said. It was unclear what church Abbas was referring to.

It should be acknowledged that Abbas is locked in a fierce competition with Hamas for support from Palestinians and by diving even deeper into the barrel of ancient libels, he is, by his own lights, merely pandering to domestic opinion. But the green light he is giving to random violence by Palestinians is unmistakable. The question is when will his Washington cheering section recognize that they have invested heavily in a figure that is counting on their support insulating him against any consequences for his actions?

On its face, Abbas would seem to be the last person who would want a third intifada since he stands to lose the most by an open breach with an Israeli security apparatus that is his only guarantee of survival against Hamas. Nor can he afford to alienate the Americans or the European Union since both provide him with the cash he needs to irrigate the corrupt kleptocracy that he presides over in the West Bank.

That ought to give both Israel and the West some leverage in moderating his language even if it has never been enough to cause him to be willing to defy Palestinian public opinion and negotiate a peace deal that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn.

That is why the silence of the West about Abbas is so frustrating for Israel. For months, the Obama administration has been lauding the PA head as a courageous man of peace while badmouthing Netanyahu as an obstacle to it in both on and off the record statements. Thus it is no surprise that Abbas believes he has virtual carte blanche from his donors and political sponsors to go as far as he wants when it comes to inciting violence.

The problem here is that while the White House and State Department can often be relied upon to issue statements urging both sides to show restraint and condemning violence of all kinds, they generally have no problem being specific when it comes to Israel and Netanyahu. But even if we leave aside the unfair nature of most of the criticisms of the Israeli, they find it difficult, if not impossible to turn the same critical gaze at Abbas.

Let’s concede that even if Abbas were to have held his tongue and sought to calm tensions over Jerusalem, there is no guarantee that no violence would have occurred. But by seeking to outpace Hamas when it comes to fanning the flames about the mosques on the Temple Mount, Abbas has made a material contribution to Middle East violence. And he is doing it on the American taxpayer’s dime.

It should also be stated that some inflammatory voices on the Israeli right have contributed to the problem. As unfair as the status quo on the Temple Mount might be to Jews, overturning it right now would be the sort of thing that will get a lot of people killed. But it should be pointed out that instead of feeding and/or profiting from anger over this issue, Netanyahu and his government have tried to prevent violence, not encourage it, but keep getting slammed by Western critics for not altogether conceding Jewish rights throughout Jerusalem.

The issue here isn’t so much who gets to pray on the Temple Mount since there is no chance of the status quo being altered. Rather it is whether the West thinks it is OK for the recipient of their largesse to refer to Jews as “contaminators” of their own capital city. Such language isn’t merely pandering to Palestinian opinion; it is a sign that Abbas is part of the problem of violence and hate, not its potential solution.

For years, the same people hammering Netanyahu and excusing Abbas now were the ones urging a similar policy toward Yasir Arafat and his blatant incitement toward hate. Those who did so bore a degree of responsibility for the violence that ensued when Arafat blew up the peace process with a bloody second intifada. The same judgment will apply to the president and his cheerleaders as they stand by and watch Abbas play the same card.

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Abbas’s Palestine Is the Real Apartheid State

In recent weeks, critics of Israel have been crying foul over the fact that Jews have moved into some apartments in East Jerusalem neighborhoods. The fact that the homes were legally purchased and that the new residents were merely attempting to reside in the country’s as-yet-undivided capital was seen as irrelevant since the presence of Jews in Arab-majority areas is considered to be an obstacle to a potential partition of the city should a peace agreement with the Palestinians ever be signed. But even if we were to concede that such moves do infuriate Arabs, surely no one, not even Israel’s most adamant opponents, would be comfortable with laws that banned the presence of Jews in parts of Jerusalem or anywhere else. Right? Wrong.

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In recent weeks, critics of Israel have been crying foul over the fact that Jews have moved into some apartments in East Jerusalem neighborhoods. The fact that the homes were legally purchased and that the new residents were merely attempting to reside in the country’s as-yet-undivided capital was seen as irrelevant since the presence of Jews in Arab-majority areas is considered to be an obstacle to a potential partition of the city should a peace agreement with the Palestinians ever be signed. But even if we were to concede that such moves do infuriate Arabs, surely no one, not even Israel’s most adamant opponents, would be comfortable with laws that banned the presence of Jews in parts of Jerusalem or anywhere else. Right? Wrong.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas reacted to the fact that Jews have bought homes from Palestinians in parts of Jerusalem by vowing to toughen existing PA laws that forbid such sales. Yes, that’s right. In “Palestine”—be it the existing PA or Hamas states or the future independent Palestinian state that Europe is so eager to recognize even without it having to make peace with Israel—it is against the law to sell land or a home to a Jew.

The question of whether Jews should move into majority Arab neighborhoods or towns is a question of judgment. Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected any peace deal that would give them an independent state and a share of Jerusalem since it would require them to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. It is possible to argue that the two communities are better off living separately. But voluntary separation is one thing, legal restrictions on the right of Jews to live in some areas is something very different.

After all, in the State of Israel, which is routinely and falsely accused of being an “apartheid state,” Arabs may live where they please. When some areas have tried to restrict sales of property to Arabs, Israel’s courts have ruled that this is inconsistent with the principles enunciated in the country’s basic laws. While Israel is not a perfect society and the Arab minority faces challenges that are often rooted in the century-old war over the land, the principle of equality before the law for all citizens is upheld.

But in “Palestine,” not only are there no courts or government to prevent individuals or groups from discriminating, but there it is the government itself that both promulgates and ruthlessly enforces such bias.

As the Times of Israel reports:

According to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency, Abbas on Monday imposed a sentence of hard labor for life on “anyone diverting, renting or selling land to an enemy state or one of its subjects.”

Jordan’s penal code number 16 article 114, applicable in the Palestinian territories, previously subscribed “temporary hard labor” to perpetrators of the crime.

In practice, this means Jews may not buy, rent, or sell land. In other words, should the state of Palestine that sits in the United Nations ever become a real sovereign country it will be the apartheid state, not democratic Israel.

The purpose of such laws is to thwart the Zionist enterprise by which Jews have returned to their ancient homeland by legally purchasing land. But the motivating factor here is Jew hatred. Should Palestine ever become a reality, the neighborhoods where Jews have bought homes would be part of it. At that point these few Jews would be no threat to the Arab majority. But the Palestinian vision of statehood remains one in which Israel would be a country where Jews and Arabs live while Palestine will be a Judenrein—Jew-free—entity.

The point here is that peace is possible if both sides are prepared to compromise and recognize each other’s legitimacy. But the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority of Abbas, that both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry constantly praise as a true peace partner for Israel, is not only not interested in compromising. It is also promulgating and attempting to enforce laws that are based in anti-Semitic incitement. Were Israel to ban Arabs from moving into homes they owned in West Jerusalem, it would prompt an international outcry and condemnations from the United States. But instead America condemns Jews who move into Arab neighborhoods and stays silent when Abbas seeks to treat those who sell to Jews as criminals.

Instead of the Jewish home buying in Jerusalem being an obstacle to peace as Israel’s critics claim, it is the Arab attempt to criminalize selling to a Jew that best illustrates why peace is not yet possible.

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Can Abbas Challenge Hamas? Not Likely.

After 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, many in the international community are hoping the cease-fire will encourage a revival of the Middle East peace talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority that collapsed this past spring. But while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has welcomed the possibility, at least in theory, he does have one request of PA head Mahmoud Abbas: divorce Hamas. Is he being unreasonable?

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After 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, many in the international community are hoping the cease-fire will encourage a revival of the Middle East peace talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority that collapsed this past spring. But while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has welcomed the possibility, at least in theory, he does have one request of PA head Mahmoud Abbas: divorce Hamas. Is he being unreasonable?

The short answer is no.

Abbas has been the darling of the Western media and the Obama administration in recent years largely because of their antipathy for Netanyahu. His popularity has only increased recently because of the implicit comparison with Hamas whose decision to plunge the country into war resulted in death and destruction for the people of Gaza and achieved nothing for the Palestinians. Nothing, that is, except the satisfaction of killing 70 Jews and the spectacle of seeing most Israelis being obligated to run back and forth to bomb shelters to evade the largely ineffectual Hamas barrage of thousands of rockets. Hamas started the conflict when its members kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teens and they relentlessly escalated it at every turn despite Netanyahu’s acceptance of cease-fire offers that would have saved most of those Palestinians who were killed in the fighting.

This behavior was egregious enough that even Abbas felt he could get away with criticizing his Islamist rivals when he said this week that all of the deaths, injuries and damage done by the fighting could have been avoided and questioning the future of his unity pact with Hamas. But Abbas, who reportedly met with Netanyahu earlier this week, isn’t likely to throw Hamas out of his PA government. Though Hamas is unlikely to ever allow the PA back into Gaza as they agreed, the unity pact signed this past spring was Abbas’s ticket out of negotiations with Israel and, as such, allows him to posture as if he wants peace to Western audiences while reminding fellow Palestinians that he is just as committed to the long war against Israel as the Islamists.

The gap between reality and what Abbas says in public gets bigger all the time. While Abbas talks big about going back to the United Nations in order to force Israel to completely withdraw from the West Bank, there’s not much secret about the fact that the only thing keeping him in secure possession of his headquarters in Ramallah, not to mention, his life, is the protection afforded him by Israel’s security services. As the news about a planned Hamas coup against Abbas that was foiled by the Shin Bet proved, the last thing the PA leader actually wants is a West Bank without an Israeli security presence.

Yet if Abbas was really serious about obtaining an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem, he must know that the only way to do so is to convince Israelis that it would not turn into another version of Gaza. Israelis remember that they withdrew every soldier, settlement and settler from Gaza in 2005 in the hope of encouraging peace only to realize that what they had done was to provide Hamas with the opportunity of running a terrorist state on their doorstop. Given the ease with which Hamas ousted Fatah from the strip, it’s fair to ask why anyone would expect a different outcome if a similar experiment were tried in the West Bank.

Yet despite everything, Abbas clings to the pact with Hamas as if somehow this will save him. It won’t.

If we assume that Abbas truly wants a peace deal with Israel and statehood rather than just an excuse to keep avoiding peace talks, there is actually only one path to that outcome. While Netanyahu speaks of the necessity of a Fatah-Hamas divorce, what is needed is a PA decision to finally break with Hamas and to fight it just as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has done with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Israel would love to see Abbas march into Gaza and oust Hamas from control as the unity pact supposedly promised. But given the weakness of the PA forces and the resolute nature of Hamas’s armed cadres (who massacred Fatah supporters when they seized the strip in a 2007 coup) that has about as much chance of happening as the Fatah government ridding itself of corruption. But if a two-state solution is to become a reality rather than a theory that is what it will take.

Until it does, all discussions of Israeli withdrawals or PA statehood initiatives are merely hot air. In his 10 years of power, Abbas has never shown the slightest indication that he is willing to do what it takes to achieve peace as opposed to just posture in order to appear belligerent in front of his own people. If Abbas is not a cipher that will never challenge Hamas, then he’s going to have to prove it. Unfortunately, nothing we have seen before, during or after the summer war with Hamas should lead anyone to think that he can.

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Abbas Can’t Solve Gaza or Make Peace

While both Hamas and Israel’s government have been trying to assert that they both won the war that apparently concluded with a cease-fire agreement yesterday, a third party is attempting to stake his claim as the man who can win the peace. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas anticipated the announcement of the cease-fire by vowing to go back to the United Nations on Monday to force Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank as well as Jerusalem. And some in the U.S. and Israel think the best response to the end of the fighting is to further empower Abbas as a counterweight to Hamas. While this sounds logical, it would be a colossal error.

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While both Hamas and Israel’s government have been trying to assert that they both won the war that apparently concluded with a cease-fire agreement yesterday, a third party is attempting to stake his claim as the man who can win the peace. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas anticipated the announcement of the cease-fire by vowing to go back to the United Nations on Monday to force Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank as well as Jerusalem. And some in the U.S. and Israel think the best response to the end of the fighting is to further empower Abbas as a counterweight to Hamas. While this sounds logical, it would be a colossal error.

Some critics of the Netanyahu government believe it has erred in recent years by being so critical of Abbas while essentially acquiescing to continued Hamas rule in Gaza. That school of thought holds that the prime minister thinks leaving Gaza in Hamas’s hands makes it impossible for Abbas to make peace and undermines the chances of a two-state solution. There is no doubt that some in the government would prefer the status quo to a peace deal that would give Abbas the West Bank for a Palestinian state. But those who believe that sort of Machiavellian thinking is responsible for the lack of peace are ignoring some hard truths about Abbas and the political culture of the Palestinians.

A rational analysis of the Palestinian predicament would lead one to think that this is Abbas’s moment. Hamas achieved nothing with its decision to launch a war of attrition with Israel after its members kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers. Nothing, that is, except the utter devastation of Gaza, the loss of two thousand dead as well as the destruction of its terror tunnels and the expenditure of much of its rocket arsenal in return for only a few dozen dead Israelis and little damage to the Jewish state. By contrast, Abbas can now stride into Gaza with his PA forces and claim to be the man who can improve conditions for Palestinians and forge a deal that might give them independence. But those assumptions about Abbas’s ability to act decisively now completely ignore the realities of Palestinian politics as well as the utter incompetence of the PA.

Even if we were to take it as a given that Abbas is as dedicated to peace as some of his American and Jewish friends claim him to be, the notion that it has been Netanyahu’s disdain for the PA leader that has prevented peace is absurd. Throughout his years in power Abbas has had two key objectives: to portray himself as a peacemaker to the West and to avoid being trapped in any negotiations with Israel that might obligate him to sign a deal that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state and end the conflict for all time. That’s why he fled the 2008 peace talks with Ehud Olmert even after Netanyahu’s predecessor offered virtually all of the West Bank and much of Jerusalem. It’s also why he boycotted peace talks from 2009 to 2013 and then fled them again at the first opportunity this spring when he signed a unity pact with Hamas rather than peace with Israel. And rather than ask the U.S. to drag Netanyahu back to the table now that the fighting in Gaza is over, he is running to the UN in a stunt that will discomfit the Israelis but do nothing to get Palestinians a state.

The reason he has stuck to this no-peace strategy can be discovered by asking why he has avoided elections (he’s currently serving the ninth year of a four-year term) in recent years with no sign that he is looking to take on Hamas at the ballot box even after their military failure. The unfortunate reality is that Abbas knows that even unsuccessful attempts to slaughter Jews—such as Hamas’s shooting of more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities or its attempt to use tunnels to pull off terrorist atrocities—boosts its credibility as the party that is doing the most to “resist” Israel. When Hamas talks about ending the “occupation” they are not referring to the West Bank (which the Palestinians could have had as long ago as 2000 when Israel made its first peace offer) but all of pre-June 1967 Israel, a stance that resonates more with the Palestinian street than Abbas’s clever equivocations. None of the positive statements he has made in recent years or the occasional help he provides Israel can override the fact that Palestinian national identity is still inextricably tied to the continuation of war on Zionism. Abbas may regret this, but he has showed time and again that he won’t do anything to change it.

As the revelations of a planned Hamas coup in the West Bank uncovered by the Shin Bet security service showed, the only thing keeping Abbas in charge in Ramallah is Israel and Palestinians know it. The notion that parachuting Abbas or his PA forces into Gaza will somehow stop Hamas from re-arming or using humanitarian aid to rebuild its bunkers and tunnels is a fantasy. So, too, is the idea that more Western or Israeli support will enable Abbas to govern either the West Bank or Gaza effectively with his corrupt and incompetent Fatah cadres.

It is an unfortunate fact that Israel’s decision to leave Hamas in place rather than seek its elimination has, despite its clear defeat in the field, bolstered the Islamist group. But Netanyahu can’t compensate for that by empowering Abbas. The PA leader hasn’t the guns or the guts to face down Hamas in its Gaza stronghold and doesn’t dare try his luck at the ballot box even in the West Bank where conditions are more favorable to him.

The vast majority of Israelis know that any withdrawals on the West Bank would probably mean the creation of a larger and more dangerous version of the mess in Gaza. That is something no rational government of any kind would countenance. So while neither Israelis or their American allies are satisfied with a reinstatement of the pre-Gaza war status quo, even the dangerous uncertainty such a decision represents is better than repeating the Jewish state’s calamitous decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. Boosting Abbas at the expense of Hamas sounds logical, but it is part and parcel of the same fool’s errand diplomacy that brought the Middle East to the current impasse.

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Don’t Count on Abbas to Save Gaza

After months in eclipse, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s stock is on the rise. Which is to say that if Abbas’s future depends solely on the international media, talking heads on American television, and some of his supporters within the Israeli government, he’s in very good shape. But though a lot of people are counting on Abbas to be the linchpin of a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the notion that he is strong enough to take advantage of the opening he is being offered is based on blind hope, not reality.

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After months in eclipse, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s stock is on the rise. Which is to say that if Abbas’s future depends solely on the international media, talking heads on American television, and some of his supporters within the Israeli government, he’s in very good shape. But though a lot of people are counting on Abbas to be the linchpin of a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the notion that he is strong enough to take advantage of the opening he is being offered is based on blind hope, not reality.

The case for Abbas was laid out in today’s New York Times in an article in which the PA’s role in the peace talks that have been going on in Cairo is discussed. The widely held assumption is that Abbas and his Fatah Party can be dropped into Gaza and monitor the border crossings so as to ensure that the aid that pours into the strip will be used for humanitarian work and reconstruction of civilian infrastructure and homes, not for helping Hamas prepare for the next round of fighting with Israel.

It’s a nice idea. Ideally, the West and the Israelis would ultimately like Abbas to take back the control of Gaza from Hamas that it lost in a 2007 coup. But that’s thinking big. For starters, they want the PA’s presence in Gaza to be the method by which Israel and Egypt can be persuaded to re-open the borders and to loosen, if not end, the blockade of the Islamist-run strip.

If the idea worked, it would not only make it harder for Hamas to start another war; it would also be the method by which Fatah could start the process of regaining the support of Gaza Palestinians. Investing in Abbas and Fatah would, according to this theory, help Israel out of a dilemma in which any concessions to the Palestinians are seen as endangering the Jewish state’s security. The newly empowered PA would then be in a stronger position to edge out Hamas but to also make peace with Israel.

With the PA in charge in Gaza, it would no longer be plausible for Israelis to worry about handing over most of the West Bank to Abbas. Nor would it be necessary for it to continue the blockade of Gaza.

It all sounds logical and a surefire path to peace. The only problem is that it almost certainly won’t work.

Let’s start with the first step of the plan: parachuting a small force of Palestinians loyal to Abbas into Gaza to deal with the border.

The first problem is that the notion of trusting Fatah security forces to keep weapons out of Gaza or to make sure that building materials are directed to humanitarian rather than “military” projects is a joke. The history of the PA police and other forces supposedly loyal to Abbas tells us that these forces are highly unlikely to be reliable monitors of the security situation. Fatah’s people are even more corrupt than Hamas’s despots and therefore highly susceptible to pressures and blandishments that will make it impossible for the group to do its job. Nor are most of its personnel dedicated to the peaceful mission outlined for it in the cease-fire deal drafts. To the contrary, Fatah’s members are just as dedicated to Israel’s destruction as Hamas, though they prefer the job to be done more gradually.

The idea that PA officials or security people will be an effective barrier to the re-militarization of Gaza—as opposed to the goal of demilitarization that Israel wants and which is a prerequisite for peace—is farcical. Even if the PA were parachuted into Gaza, the chances that they would stop Hamas from doing what it likes are minimal. Putting them in there might enable Israel to claim that they had degraded Hamas militarily as well as politically, but it is highly likely that this would merely be a fig leaf on an already bad situation as it reverted to the pre-Operation Protective Edge reality in which Hamas was actively preparing for the next war.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Abbas and his forces are sincere about wanting peace. The problem with the plan to use Abbas to police the Gaza border is that it places him in the position in which he has never been particularly comfortable as well as one in which he can easily be portrayed as Israel’s puppet, indeed its policeman, rather than an independent leader.

That’s the conundrum on which many previous peace efforts have also failed. Israel has always wanted the PA to neutralize Palestinian Islamist radicals without the same interference, as the late Yitzhak Rabin often put it, from a Supreme Court and the checks and balances that come with the Jewish state’s democratic legal system. But neither Yasir Arafat nor his successor Abbas ever embraced that role wholeheartedly no matter how great their antipathy for their Hamas rivals. Both understood that fighting Hamas or even acting as a restraint on the Islamists undermined their credibility with Palestinian public opinion.

Much though Israel and the West would like to change it, the perverse dynamic of the political culture of Palestinian society has always rewarded those groups that shed blood or demonstrate belligerence against Israel while punishing those who support peace or at least a cessation of hostilities. That’s why Abbas, who is currently serving the 10th year of a four-year term as president, has avoided new elections.

Moreover, even if PA forces were serious about stopping Hamas, the small border force currently envisaged would, as was the case in 2007, be no match for the Islamists if they choose to resist them.

No matter how you slice it, there simply is no scenario in which the PA really can wrench control of Gaza away from Hamas while the latter is still fully armed and in control of the strip’s government. Building a port in Gaza or anything else intended to make it easier to import materials and arms into the strip without first eliminating Hamas is asking for trouble. Nor is it reasonable to expect Abbas to recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state and begin the process of ending the conflict while he is put in such an untenable situation.

Much as many in Israel and the United States would like to imagine that Abbas can somehow supplant Hamas, that just isn’t in the cards short of an all-out Israeli invasion of Gaza. More sensible Israelis know that the results of their nation’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 makes it obvious that any further territorial surrenders in the West Bank won’t enhance the chances of peace but will, instead, create new terror strongholds that will be even more dangerous and harder to wipe out. Though the Cairo talks have raised his profile from the near-anonymity that was forced upon him during the fighting, Abbas is just as irrelevant to the solution to the problem of Gaza as he ever was.

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Did Hamas Win? Not Exactly.

In today’s New York Times, Yediot Aharonot military analyst Ronen Bergman has some sobering conclusions about the fighting in Gaza. While he agrees that in an objective sense, Hamas was defeated on the battlefield by the Israel Defense Forces, it must be acknowledged that the terrorist group exposed some of the army’s deficiencies and may well have established itself as “an equal party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.”

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In today’s New York Times, Yediot Aharonot military analyst Ronen Bergman has some sobering conclusions about the fighting in Gaza. While he agrees that in an objective sense, Hamas was defeated on the battlefield by the Israel Defense Forces, it must be acknowledged that the terrorist group exposed some of the army’s deficiencies and may well have established itself as “an equal party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.”

For those who have acted as if Hamas is the victor in the fighting because it forced Israel to counter-attack and thus created havoc in Gaza, our John Podhoretz’s opinion on this issue published last week in the New York Post still holds. Hamas didn’t win. It lost much of its arsenal and saw its carefully built network of border tunnels destroyed before they could be used to pull off a massive terrorist atrocity. And for all the talk about Israel losing in the court of public opinion, it’s not clear that the latest war changed a thing in that battle. Due in no small measure to the rising tide of anti-Semitism, hatred for Israel is greater than ever. But support for the Jewish state here in the United States remains high.

And yet, as the always insightful Bergman notes, the IDF has plenty of lessons to learn from the last month. Iron Dome proved to be one of the greatest technological advances in recent military history as it effectively negated Hamas’s vast arsenal of long- and medium-range rockets (something that was very bad news indeed for Hezbollah which now realizes that their rocket threat on Israel’s northern border is now also officially useless). But along with the high-tech victory, there were also obvious intelligence failures. The Israelis underestimated the size of Hamas’s arsenal as well as the fighting ability of its cadres in Gaza. Nor was the army ready for the size or the scope of the tunnel threat once the fighting started. It will have to invest heavily in efforts to detect tunnel building or face a rerun of that episode in the future. Bergman also notes correctly that Israel’s special forces proved unable or unwilling to pull off any major operations that might have either inflicted great damage on Hamas or deal a devastating blow to the Islamists’ morale.

Does that all add up to a situation in which the war ends pretty much the way it started but “with significant damage to Israel’s deterrence,” as Bergman summed it up?

The hope within Israel’s Defense Ministry is that the devastating damage done to Hamas’s infrastructure will mean that it will be years before the terrorists think about starting another round. But considering that with Hamas seemingly determined to keep the rockets flying until it gets want it wants in negotiations, it is far from certain that this war is really over. Hamas is hoping to keep up a war of attrition and that is the sort of conflict that is hard for any democracy, even one, like Israel, that understands it is locked in a battle for the survival of their homeland, to win.

Moreover, Bergman’s conclusion about Hamas improving its status in negotiations with Egypt and Israel is inarguable. By surviving this war of choice that it started, Hamas can claim a victory of a sort. No matter how badly its forces are whipped in the field or how pathetic its rocket offensive has become with almost no real damage done to Israel despite thousands of attacks, as long as it is still standing when the shooting stops, it hasn’t entirely lost.

Nor does the talk about replacing Hamas with the supposedly more moderate and utterly irrelevant Palestinian Authority—at least at the border crossings—amount to much. Anyone who expects the humanitarian aid—including the concrete for rebuilding Gaza—that will inevitably flow into the strip to be kept out of Hamas’s hands is dreaming. Hamas isn’t giving up power voluntarily and there is no sign that it can be overthrown.

What Bergman’s conclusions do mean is that, as John noted last week, Israel’s only option in this conflict is to stay strong and prepare as best it can for the inevitable next round of a long war. Contrary to President Obama and others who want to save the Jewish state from itself, that war can’t be ended by territorial withdrawals on the West Bank that would create a larger and more dangerous version of Gaza.

Israel has good reason to be proud of its army after the last month. But no one should assume that their victories mean that the threat from Hamas has really been diminished. No one wants to give the murderers and war criminals of Hamas any credit but while their organization remains in charge in Gaza, they haven’t really been defeated. If Israel wants to change that unpalatable strategic conclusion, it’s going to have to do what it understandably appears unwilling to do: re-occupy Gaza and finish the Islamist terror movement once and for all.

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If Hamas Survives, Forget About Peace … Or Quiet

As the fighting in Gaza continues with no lasting cease-fire in sight, some of the discussion about this war has shifted to whether Israel can or should seek to depose its Hamas enemies altogether. This is a debate that is long overdue.

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As the fighting in Gaza continues with no lasting cease-fire in sight, some of the discussion about this war has shifted to whether Israel can or should seek to depose its Hamas enemies altogether. This is a debate that is long overdue.

In Haaretz, Benny Morris suggests that while he doesn’t expect it to happen, sooner or later Israel must take on the unpleasant task of defeating Hamas once and for all. Our Max Boot disagrees since he believes the casualties that would inevitably result from such a long and bloody struggle would be prohibitive for Israel. More than that, he argues that in the absence of a viable alternative to Hamas to run Gaza, Israel really has no choice but to let the Islamists remain in place when the current round of fighting ends at some point.

While I think Max’s two objections to Morris’s suggestion provide a formidable rationale for a decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to call a halt to his country’s counter-offensive, I have to come down on the other side of this argument. A long battle to take down Hamas would be costly. Nor can Israel be certain of what would follow. But a failure to end the rocket and terror tunnel threat from Gaza now would be an even costlier mistake that Netanyahu and his successors would regret.

Prior to the current outbreak and even after the rocket fire from Gaza resumed this month I was among those who thought Israel would never consider retaking control of the strip. But like most wars, this one has changed the way both sides looked at the conflict. Israelis now see that the tunnel city underneath Gaza is no minor nuisance but a strategic threat that will require a major commitment of forces to contain if Hamas is allowed to reconstruct even a portion of its terror infrastructure. Though the Iron Dome missile defense system has prevented the thousands of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza from causing many casualties, it is a misnomer to assume that it provides a complete answer to that danger. Whether or not a single rocket ever kills an Israeli, Hamas has forced two-thirds of the population of Israel to spend part of their lives in bomb shelters. With thousands of rockets still left in their possession, Israel cannot contemplate a cease-fire that would allow Hamas to resume this ordeal at any future time of their choosing. And anything short of their elimination will ensure that this is exactly what they will do.

Moreover, even much of the Israeli left now understands that there can be no compromise with Hamas. Any thoughts that the unity pact signed this spring with Fatah would moderate their positions are now seen as absurd. As Morris rightly points out, this round of fighting is not just the latest tit-for-tat in a cycle of violence but rather the natural result from an ideological commitment to shedding the blood of Israelis in a never-ending war to destroy the Jewish state. When Hamas says it is the “resistance” to the “occupation,” its spokesmen are not referring to the West Bank but pre-1967 Israel. Though both Netanyahu and the people of Israel would have preferred to offer Hamas “quiet for quiet” and to end the fighting weeks ago, the tunnels and the weeks of rocket fire leave them no alternative but to seek a conclusion to this problem. While pundits are fond of saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a political rather than a military solution, so long as Hamas is in power that is simply not true.

If Israel is to have quiet and have any hope of peace in the long run, Hamas has to go. While they rule Gaza, not only is a two-state solution off the table; any assurance that normal life in the territories or much of Israel can be counted on is also not possible.

Max is right that the cost of taking out Hamas will be terrible. But the assumption that Israelis are not willing to pay that price may no longer be valid. Every poll of opinion in Israel now shows that up to 90 percent of the people support the war and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict. More importantly, the vast majority also believe it would be a mistake to stop the fighting before the country’s security is assured.

Few would have believed that such results were possible even in a time of peace. But for Israelis to take this position after weeks of fighting during the course of which they have lost dozens of soldiers—each death being a traumatizing event for the small country where the majority of young people serve in the army—shows that there has been a major shift in opinion on the subject. Israelis from across the political spectrum are no longer willing to be held hostage to the caprices of a band of Islamist murderers bent on destroying them. While no one can be sure how long this consensus will hold, Netanyahu clearly has the support he needs to carry on with this vital mission for the foreseeable future.

Max’s suggestion that the example of America’s lack of a post-Saddam scenario in Iraq should give Israel pause is also very much to the point. There is no question that Netanyahu will have to answer objections that center on the question of what will follow Hamas in Gaza. But the possible answers to this question are not such a mystery even if none of them are attractive.

The most logical answer is the Palestinian Authority. After all, the PA ran Gaza along with most of the West Bank prior to Hamas’s bloody 2007 coup. The return of the PA would end the blockade that Israel, Egypt, and most of the international community placed on the strip after the terror group took power there. Such an outcome would also make it possible for talks about a two-state solution to resume. It is precisely the justified fear on the part of most Israelis that the West Bank would become another Hamasistan that makes territorial withdrawal there unlikely even in the unlikely event that Fatah and its leader Mahmoud Abbas recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.

Would the PA be able to fend off an Islamist insurgency in Gaza? It might be difficult, but I think the answer is yes and the West Bank provides a precedent. Hamas could never have ousted Abbas in Gaza had not Ariel Sharon removed Israel’s army and all the settlements in 2005. Joint Israel-PA security cooperation has kept a lid, albeit a shaky one, on the West Bank as it did in Gaza prior to 2005. There is no reason to believe they would fail in Gaza now.

Benny Morris is merely echoing a developing Israeli consensus about Gaza when he says there is no alternative to finishing off Hamas. Just as there is no reason for the U.S. to compromise with al-Qaeda, neither is there any logical or ethical rationale for a continuation of Hamas’s rule in Gaza. Putting off a conclusion to this war will only lead to more suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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