Europe comes to the rescue.
In reaction to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity deal signed in Cairo last week, Israel decided to turn off the spigot. It halted the transfer to the PA of over $100 million in customs and tax revenues.
Considering that, even under the right-of-center Netanyahu government, Israel has generally whitewashed the PA, Netanyahu even having called its president Mahmoud Abbas his “partner in peace” last September, it was a notably assertive step for Israel. And it appears to have hit the PA hard.
Although the European Union immediately announced that it would put up the money in Israel’s stead, it’s not clear when the sum will materialize. Meanwhile it was reported on Thursday that PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was turning to tight-fisted Arab states for help, claiming the PA was unable to pay the April salaries of 155,000 government workers and intoning at a news briefing: “We say to our Arab brothers: save us. We need your help more than any time before. It is the moment of truth.”
It was further reported on Thursday that Fayyad—sounding pretty desperate—was considering asking the UN Security Council to force Israel to hand over the money.
While the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the EU have kept a distance from Hamas, the idea that the PA could be accountable for anything it does is indeed unfamiliar. In addition to the EU having claimed it would fill in for Israel on the transfer payment, its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has called on Israel to relent and make the payment itself, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly told Netanyahu to do so in a phone call.
Israel, in having drawn the line at the PA’s deal with Hamas while more or less countenancing its other actions up to that point, is partly responsible for this state of affairs. Netanyahu has seen a diplomatic advantage for Israel in showing a generous tolerance toward the PA and repeatedly imploring it to join him in “peace talks.”
Israel could, however, have taken a different tack and emphasized that, based on the record, the PA is no more a genuine peace partner for Israel than Hamas. Talking points, among others, could include:
Holocaust desecration, denial, and abuse are all components of [PA] ideology. A PA TV children’s broadcast taught that Israel burned Palestinians in ovens…. A senior Palestinian academic taught adults on PA TV: “There was no Dachau, no Auschwitz; these were disinfecting sites.”… The [official] PA daily has published many articles denying the Holocaust….
Abbas himself published a thesis denying and distorting the Holocaust in 1982—and as Israeli journalist David Bedein reports, this is hardly a thing of the past. Abbas’s thesis is now “prominently displayed” in “every [PA] school and in every library in every Palestinian university….”
* Torture. Torture is rampant in PA jails, as reported by the Financial Times last November (referenced here) and by Human Rights Watch in October. Amid the talk of an Arab spring and democracy, no one asks why creating another brutal, oppressive Arab dictatorship should be a supreme Western goal or what kind of “peace” such an entity would offer Israel. For its part, Israel has not helped by constantly associating the PA with peace in its official statements.
* The Fatah Charter. Israelis and others, in asserting that a Palestinian government that includes Hamas cannot be a peace partner for Israel, often mention genocidal provisions of the Hamas Charter. Yet the various foundational documents of Fatah—Abbas’s movement and the dominant force in the PA—actually are not much better. Even Fatah’s revised 2009 Charter states that “our enemy is strong and the battle is ferocious and long…. Go forward to revolution. Long live Palestine, free and Arab!” It makes no rescission of the Fatah Constitution, which declares that “Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic...and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”
* Incitement. While the fact that the PA names town squares, summer camps and the like after terrorists may be somewhat better known than the other problems, not enough attention is given to the link between systematic PA incitement and the horrific consequences. The massacre in March of five members of an Israeli family, including two young children and a baby, was committed by two PA teenagers who grew up in its atmosphere of severe anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic demonization and hatred. And now it turns out that the killing of one Israeli worshipper and wounding of several others in Nablus last month was perpetrated by members of the PA security force, at least two of them U.S.-trained.
The fact that the PA-Hamas unity deal is, in part, an attempt to smooth the path—by presenting a united front—to a UN declaration of Palestinian statehood in September, is testament to how little the PA fears being held accountable for what it does. Netanyahu, in urging European leaders not to grant that recognition, has been using the deal with Hamas as a trump card. It may now be too late, and hypocritical, for Jerusalem to emphasize the vicious nature of the PA itself.
Instead Israel will have to emphasize Hamas’s brutality, anti-Semitism, and rejectionism, as if the PA itself is free of those taints and allying with Hamas its only sin.