by Hugh Fitzgerald
The Biden Administration is determined to undo the most important achievement of the Trump administration, that is, its support for Israel’s rights under the Palestine Mandate and U.N. Resolution 242, and for the Abraham Accords, and its refusal to any longer tolerate the Palestinian Authority’s Pay-For-Slay Program, or the antisemitism in its schoolbooks. “Internal Biden memo said to back 2-state solution along 1967 lines,” by Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, March 17, 2021:
…The US paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the PA’s creditors, such as the Israeli state utility companies from which the Palestinians purchase water and electricity. They paid for training for the PA’s security forces and numerous infrastructure projects.
What did the U.S. get for its hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid to the PA? Did the PA agree to negotiate with Israel? No, it hasn’t done so for years. Did it cease its support for terrorism? Not at all. The PA continues to spend about $350 million each year for its “Pay-For-Slay” program. The Taylor Force Act prohibits any American aid from going to the PA as long as it continues to support the Pay-For-Slay program. How does the Biden Administration plan, in its insensate desire to again shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to the PA, to get around the Taylor Force Act?
Washington also gave hundreds of millions a year in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — known as UNRWA — which is in charge of administering the daily needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East.
The memo, which was passed along to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, highlights UNRWA in particular as one of the organizations the Biden administration plans to back in order to aid the Palestinians….
UNRWA has been wracked with scandals – financial and sexual — at the very top, leading to its entire echelon of senior executives, including its director, Pierre Krähenbühl, having to resign in 2019. UNRWA continues, after many years of claiming it will “fix” the problem, to use schoolbooks that are full of antisemitic passages.
UNRWA is also responsible for the policy of treating the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees themselves. Thus, the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and others in the same line of descent from real refugees, are all considered to be “Palestinian refugees” themselves, and entitled to all the generous benefits – housing, health care, education – that UNRWA provides. Among the many tens of millions of refugees created since World War II, the Palestinians are the only ones to be allowed to hand on their refugee status. No one has explained why, uniquely among refugee populations, they deserve this special status. UNRWA claims there are more than five million Palestinian refugees, but the “real” refugees – those who left Mandatory Palestine and Israel between 1947 and 1949 – now number only about 30,000.
The Trump Administration was determined to stop funding this ever-enlarging farce. Nor was it going to tolerate any longer UNRWA’s antisemitic schoolbooks. Now the Biden Administration, ready to turn on the spigot of American aid, is preparing to undo the Trump administration’s financial pressure on UNRWA to reform both its absurdly expansive definition of a “Palestinian refugee” and its antisemitic schoolbooks.
Noting major economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians, the memo states that the Biden administration is “planning a full range of economic, security and humanitarian assistance programs [for Palestinians], including through UN Relief and World Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).”
“State and USAID are working towards a restart of US assistance to the Palestinians in late March or early April,” the memo says, adding that the COVID-related humanitarian relief package will be announced beforehand.
The Biden people can make all the plans they want for renewing aid to the Palestinians, but the Taylor Force Act will, or should, prevent them from doing so as long as the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program remains in place. They have yet to explain how they hope to evade that act’s prohibition on such aid.
The memo reveals the administration’s plans to “take a two-fold approach of maintaining and ideally improving the US relationship with Israel by deepening its integration into the region while resetting the US relationship with the Palestinian people and leadership.”
This reference to “deepening [Israel’s} integration into the region” clearly means the Abraham Accords which the Biden Administration has the good sense – for once — to want to further expand. But why should the US “reset” its relationship with the Palestinians? Why should it attempt to renew its aid when the PA has refused to halt its support for terrorists and their families, or its inculcation, in schoolbooks and on children’s television shows, of murderous antisemitism? Shouldn’t Washington wait for a change in the PA’s unacceptable behavior before turning the aid spigot back on?
One section of the memo likely to please both sides of the political spectrum in Israel is its support for expanding the normalization agreements brokered by the Trump administration between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors.
However, Amr also writes of using such agreements “to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people.” Netanyahu has sought to divorce the normalization deals from the Palestinian issue, arguing that the peace deals prove that Israel can expand its diplomatic ties in the region without making concessions to the Palestinians.
As previously pledged by Biden officials, the memo floats the idea of reopening an independent consulate akin to the one that served as the de facto mission to the Palestinians and operated out of the western part of Jerusalem until 2019. Doing so would signal US recommitment to a two-state solution, the document says. However, no final decisions have been made yet on the matter.
Re-opening a US consulate in Jerusalem as a “de facto” mission to the Palestinians undermines Israel’s claim to an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, and bolsters the Palestinian claim on having the “capital” of its future state somewhere in Jerusalem. Why is the Biden Administration so intent on taking the Palestinian side in this quarrel? Hasn’t it said it wants the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly? Yet Washington is now putting its hands on the scales, favoring the Palestinians.
The memo notes the Biden administration’s commitment to engaging the international community via the UN and the Middle East Quartet, which consists of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.
The Biden Administration should not be involving either the “international community” or the “Middle East Quartet” in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That stacks the deck against Israel. The “international community” at the U.N. is irredeemably hostile to the Jewish state. The U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly in support of the many anti-Israel resolutions that are proposed at each session. The anti-Israel bias is even more pronounced at the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has a permanent item on its agenda (Item #7), devoted solely to Israel and its putative mistreatment of the Palestinians. In recent years 160 resolutions were passed by the UNHRC; 90 of them were about Israel, and the other 70 were about the misdeeds of the 192 other countries. The UN remains a kangaroo court, with tiny Israel always in the dock. As for the Middle East Quartet, three-quarters of that “quartet” – the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia – are in the camp of the Palestinians; only the U.S. can be considered to be on Israel’s side, and even that has become less certain in light of the Biden Administration’s desire to “reset” relations with the Palestinians.
The document notes the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections in May and presidential elections in July, adding that it has been 15 years since Palestinians have been able to elect their representatives.
But the implications of an election remain uncertain: the collapse of a power-sharing agreement after the prior elections led to the Hamas takeover of Gaza [in 2007],” the memo says, noting the PA request that the US push Jerusalem to allow elections to take place in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, but not stating Washington’s position on the matter.
“We are analyzing the evolving situation and will propose a US posture together with the inter-agency,” the memo reads.
The lack of position on elections is likely to disappoint Ramallah as Palestinian officials have been lobbying Washington in recent weeks to come out in support of the democratic process, sources familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.
The Biden Administration now appears to have lost its enthusiasm for the Palestinian elections, because it now believes that Hamas will emerge with the most members in the Parliament, and might even win the Presidency if it decides to field a candidate. As of mid-March, Washington was trying to persuade Abbas to cancel the elections, in order to head off a Hamas victory. Thus an election Abbas called in order to win points with the Biden people has now become, for them, a cause for alarm. Should Hamas take over the PA, Israel will understandably not negotiate with the terror group, thus spoiling the Biden administration’s plans to pressure the Jewish state into negotiations with the Palestinians “based on the 1967 lines.”
Amr recommends the Biden administration push the PA to clamp down on incitement while also calling out Israeli settlement expansion on land that Palestinians hope will be part of their future state.
Hady Amr continues to ignore – has he ever read it? – the Mandate for Palestine, that calls for the Mandatory Authority (Great Britain) to “facilitate Jewish immigration” and “close settlement by Jews on the land.” (Article 6). What “land”? The land shown on the Mandate maps as belonging to a future Jewish state. This land extends from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Clearly Israel is within its rights to have its people settle anywhere in the West Bank. While Israelis have a “right” to settle anywhere in the West Bank, they may choose not to exercise that right in areas they do not deem critical to their defense. The Biden Administration should not, despite Hady Amr’s recommendation,”call out Israeli settlement expansion”; in so doing, the Biden people ignore both the Palestine Mandate and U.N. Resolution 242. Biden’s men can take another approach, if they wish. Washington could recognize Israel’s right to create new or expand existing settlements in the West Bank, but suggest that the wisdom of some of this settlement building or expansion can be challenged. That’s a much more acceptable approach than telling the Israelis they “have no right” to expand or build settlements when they know full well that they do.
As for the Biden Administration pressuring the PA to clamp down on incitement, how does it propose to do this? Will it insist that the PA give up its Pay-For-Slay program that rewards terrorist murderers, and incentivizes others to go and do likewise? The signs are not good. It talks of renewing aid to the Palestinians, but never mentions the Taylor Force Act. Will It demand that the PA end its practice of honoring terrorists by naming streets and squares after them? Will the Biden people convince the PA to stop using schoolbooks full of antisemitic and anti-Israel passages? Will it demand that the Palestinian children’s shows stop showing little children holding pretend knives and stabbing “Jews” while lisping their determination to “kill Jews”?
The memo reveals that talks are underway with the PA leadership aimed at altering Ramallah’s controversial payment of stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, including those convicted of terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
The altered policy currently being discussed in Ramallah would base the stipends on prisoners’ financial need rather than the length of their sentence, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel in January.
No amount of subterfuge will work. Either terrorists and their families are being supported by stipends from the PA, or they are not. It hardly matters whether “financial need” is invoked to justify such support; what matters is the identity of the recipients. No terrorist, if alive and imprisoned, and no family of a dead terrorist, deserves financial support from the PA, support which is made possible, ultimately, by the aid the PA receives. America should not be helping pay for support for terrorism.
The Biden administration will also seek to boost Palestinian institutions. “This includes strengthening civil society, media watchdogs and other elements of the fourth estate, such as emphasizing to the [Palestinian Authority] the need to protect civil society through the reductions of arrests of bloggers and dissidents,” the memo reads.
Both Hamas in Gaza and the P.A. in the West Bank deal harshly with their critics, whether they are ordinary citizens or journalists. People protesting corruption and mismanagement have their street protests shut down, often with violence; persistent critics and dissidents are thrown into jail. If those dissidents are journalists, they can be censored, lose their jobs, even be imprisoned or expelled; some choose to live, and work as journalists for Western outlets, in Israel. There is no freedom of speech or assembly for the Palestinians in either Gaza or the West Bank. How does the Biden Administration hope to overcome this culture of repression and violence? Just how will it discourage the arrests of bloggers and dissidents? How will it protect Palestinian journalists from being fired for reporting truthfully on the regimes that oppress their people? What threatened consequences would be severe enough to get the PA and Hamas to respect freedom of speech and of assembly? If past is prologue, it’s a forlorn hope.
First published in Jihad Watch.