It’s been a bumpy road for the Palestinians lately.
Recent staged spectacles that were supposed to whip up sympathy for them and put Israel in a bad light again—the Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 4) marches on Israel’s borders, the flotilla, the flytilla—have been disappointments at best, if not outright flops. And the Palestinians’ long-hyped independent-statehood bid at the UN in September is meeting growing opposition from the West.
The Obama administration is believed to have signaled that it will veto the attempt in the Security Council. Germany and Italy have come out squarely against it, and last week 100 members of the European Parliament signed a letter decrying it, noting that “past agreements between the parties and international mediators clearly reject unilateral actions.”
This week a meeting of the Middle East Quartet—the U.S., EU, UN, and Russia—that was supposed to find a way to head off the Palestinians’ statehood bid and restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, ended inconclusively. Two Israeli newspapers (here and here) say the sticking point was—in return for Israeli diplomatic concessions—Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov backing the Palestinians’ ongoing rock-solid refusal to take that seemingly innocuous step.
It all left the Palestinians very upset with the U.S. Reuters reported that
the Palestinian leadership, in unusually harsh criticism of Washington, on Tuesday held the United States responsible for “racist” Israeli policies it said had sabotaged the peace process. …
The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee convened in Ramallah after a meeting in Washington of the Quartet…failed to announce any progress toward reviving peace talks. …
“The only option facing the world today, especially the United States, is to use all tools to oblige the occupiers to halt their racist, expansionary policy,” the PLO said in a statement released after its meeting.
“The United States bears the prime responsibility for the continuation of this racist (Israeli) policy,” it said.
Somehow the “peace” cadences are hard to detect here—especially when you consider that “racist” Israel created the Palestinian Authority, has endured 17 years of terrorism from it without dissolving it, and last year froze the allegedly “expansionary” settlement construction for ten months in a fruitless bid to get the PA to discuss the two-state solution; and that the U.S., for its part, has showered the PA with $4 billion in aid since the mid-1990s and, particularly under Obama, for better or worse, made Palestinian statehood a central goal of its foreign policy.
But annoyance can run both ways, and many in Congress are—finally—getting fed up with the Palestinian Authority. Last week, in a nonbinding resolution, the House voted 407-6 to suspend aid to the PA if it keeps refusing to negotiate with Israel. Legislators are also riled by the PA’s unilateral-statehood endeavor, recent cozying-up to Hamas, and other matters.
Trying to calm the winds, administration official Jacob Walles told a House panel on Tuesday that “our assistance to the Palestinian people is an important building block of our efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will allow all people there—Israelis, Palestinians and others—to live their lives in peace, in dignity and in security.”
His words would come as a surprise to Nir Nachshon, a 27-year-old Israeli man who two weeks ago was pulled out of his car and savagely beaten after mistakenly driving into the Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. With the Palestinian Authority saturated with anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement, Israelis know that merely entering a Palestinian area means taking their life in their hands (as in the most famous, horrific incident in 2000, or other recent ones here and here).
As Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said in response to the administration’s claim that its aid to the PA gives it “strong leverage”:
Is it that our assistance hasn’t given us leverage…or that we haven’t really used it? The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act  requires the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement and recognize the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist if it wants to keep receiving U.S. assistance. Given the Palestinian Authority’s record and given U.S. law, how can we justify continued assistance?
Or as Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky, told Walles and other administration officials at the session:
Surely, you all can understand how that is troubling to people in Congress that we—and frankly, I think, to the citizens of this country—that we continue to provide substantial aid and we feel like we are not getting cooperation. That is the situation that I think a lot of us feel cannot continue and, at some point, we’re going to have to just say, you know, if you guys are not going to cooperate, we’re going to have to cut the aid off.
With the Palestinians having fooled most of the people for so much time, could it be that their day in the sun is finally waning? It may be too soon to say so. But there are signs that the totally unwarranted spell they have cast for so long is starting to fray.