Category Archives: Palestine

Why Palestinians can’t sign an end-of-conflict pact

Palestinian Arabs cannot sign an agreement that ends all claims and recognizes the right of a Jewish state to exist and live unmolested on land that was ever Muslim.

According to the usual international peace negotiators, everyone knows the end game to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exactly what each party must concede for a final treaty. They say all that is needed is for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines with minor adjustments, with east Jerusalem as the capital of the new Palestinian state. If only Israel offered that, peace would reign.

But diplomats twist themselves into knots, finding ways to rationalize Palestinian intransigence, trying to explain away the fact that all those concessions were already offered to the Palestinian Authority in 2001 and 2008 and were soundly rejected. In 2008 the Israelis offered 94% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) with land swaps to make up for the 6%, east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, while Israel even conceded giving up exclusive sovereignty of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, and the City of David, not to mention billions in international investment in a new Palestinian state. The Palestinians only had to give up the right of return, sign “an end-of-conflict and end-of-claims” agreement for perpetuity and be demilitarized.

If the Palestinians’ goal was truly two states for two peoples, and they truly wanted an independent Palestinian state living side by side a Jewish state, as UNGA Resolution 181 called for, why has this conflict not been resolved?

A recent article in The Hill by Dennis Ross and David Makovsky, two veteran peace negotiators and advisers who should know better, referred to a “two-state solution” and a “viable two-state outcome” in their attack on the Trump peace plan. Those terms mean completely different things to the Palestinians than they do to Western negotiators.

To Palestinians, two states mean an Arab state in the West Bank and a binational state in Israel that will become Arab-ruled with time, because the Palestinians will never give up the right of return, as well documented in the new book The War of Return by Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, a former Knesset member from the Center-Left Independence and Labor parties. The Palestinian demand is that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants in perpetuity have the right to move into Israel at any time of their choosing. In other words, this is the demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Western negotiators and politicians of both American political parties have never fully understood or let on that they understood what the Palestinians really want, believing the answer to bridge the divide was leaving any documents between the parties ambiguous, so both could claim victory.

The only logical approach to truly ending this conflict is to write the most clear, unambiguous and specific documents, with every possible “i” dotted and “t” crossed, so no party can ever claim it still has outstanding issues in the future. Even contingencies should be included in the agreement, with a mechanism to respond to any violations.

Why?

Because Palestinian Arabs cannot at the present time sign an agreement that ends all claims and sign an end-of-conflict resolution that recognizes the right of a Jewish state to exist and live unmolested on land that was ever Muslim. I brought this up with president Bill Clinton in 2004, a man who truly gave his all to solve the conflict. Surprisingly, despite his sincere personal investment in the conflict, he didn’t seem to appreciate the essential importance of signing an end-of-conflict resolution, but he did tell me that prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak insisted upon it, as did Ehud Olmert in 2008. This is the eternal blind spot of Western negotiators and American presidents who seem to just want a deal signed, and inexplicably believe ambiguity will build trust. That was the failure of the Oslo Accords, giving away tangible assets for unfulfilled promises.

Western peacemakers have claimed without a credible basis that acknowledging the Palestinian right to return is just a needed gesture for Palestinian dignity, and say that the Palestinians will never take advantage of it, knowing that only a token number of refugees can be allowed. Just listen to what Palestinian leaders from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas say, that vehemently contradicts this.

There is no international right for the return of refugees, certainly not descendants of refugees. In fact every other refugee in the world aided by the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) is to be rehabilitated in the country where they received refuge. This is especially true for refugees from the 1948 War of Independence, who were active participants in the war to annihilate the Jewish inhabitants, joining five Arabs armies whose goal was the complete annihilation of the Jewish state. The most the pro-Palestinian world can argue is that UNGA Resolution 194 calls for the right of return. However as with all General Assembly resolutions it has absolutely no force of law.

If peacemakers truly want a sustainable peace, they have to acknowledge that Israel has legal rights over the 1949 armistice lines if an eventual deal includes land swaps. Just like with the refugee issue, if it is not completely spelled out, no matter what agreement is signed, Palestinians will always have a pretext to say Israel stole Palestinian land with land swaps, and once again, preach and prepare for a new war.

The pro-Palestinian Middle East Monitor said it the best. “Palestinians will continue to seek a just peace that will provide future generations with their birthright; their land will be returned, one way or another.” Naïve Westerners hear the words “just peace” and assume it means two states for two peoples. What it actually means is the unlimited right of return for every Palestinian forever to Israel, as no Palestinian government can give up an individual Palestinian descendant’s claim to be a displaced owner of what is now Israel.

The annexation debate has obscured the true paradigm of the conflict. The question is not if Israel annexes 30% of the West Bank, would it end the dream of a Palestinian state. The question to ask is, would the Palestinians accept the West Bank with land swaps that ensure Israel’s security, sign an end-of-conflict resolution and accept a Jewish state? The answer for the foreseeable future is no. This is not a territorial conflict or else this would have ended long ago.

If this hill for a comprehensive agreement is too high to climb at this time, so be it. What is needed is honesty, so a putative peace agreement is not just a recipe for fruitless concessions by Israel.

If all the Palestinians are capable of doing is negotiating a better status quo with more economic development and investment in exchange for nonviolence, then that should be the path for this generation.

The Trump peace plan or any other agreement will never have any staying power if it doesn’t include an end-of-conflict agreement, a recognition of two states for two peoples that clearly states that one of those states is Jewish, and an absolute end of any right for descendants of original Palestinian refugees to return to the State of Israel.

The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network). He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides, as well White House advisers. He is the senior security editor for the Jerusalem Report/ Jerusalem Post, and writes for The Hill, JNS, JTA, RealClearWorld and Defense News.

Will the Taylor Force Act and UNRWA Reform Destroy the PA?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

America should have learned that the Palestinian Authority believes that there are no consequences for its institutionalized corruption and its compensation system for terrorists and their families.

If the Senate passes and President Donald Trump signs the Taylor Force Act, ending Palestinian Authority funding unless the PA stops its payments to terrorists and their families, would the PA really collapse, and if so what would be the consequences?

The US House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have already approved the Taylor Force legislation. Now it’s up to the full Senate to vote, awaiting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor for a full vote or attach it to other legislation.

Nearly half of all American foreign aid to the PA goes to prisoners ($345 million) and the families of so-called “martyrs,” what Americans call terrorists. The more heinous the terrorism, the more money a prisoner and his family get for a lifetime. The Taylor Force Act aims to end this practice.

As Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said, the PA created a “system in law that pays Palestinian prisoners… more money if they have longer [prison] sentence… Prisoners purposely commit more heinous crimes to get more money for families… PA incentivizes terrorism.”

His colleague Rep. Ed Royce (R-California), the chairman of the House Foreign Relations committee said, “With this legislation, we are forcing the PA to choose between US assistance and these morally reprehensible policies.”

Critics of this legislation claim that the PA would collapse without American aid, being replaced by a more radical entity like Hamas, hurting Israeli and American security interests. Given the PA-Hamas reconciliation agreement last year and Hamas’s stating this month that it will place its weapons under PA control if it can join the PLO, the distinction between these two rivals may have dramatically dissipated.

Of the $600m. per year given to the PA, approximately $290m. is from the State Department under USAID for debt relief, NGOs, hospitals, economic development etc., $355m. goes to UNRWA and the smallest amount, $55m., to PA security forces. Aid to PA security working with Israel would not be threatened.

But from an American taxpayer perspective, rewarding terrorists is abhorrent.

Which brings us to UNRWA, the humanitarian UN organization that perpetuates the conflict by counting the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees, refusing to resettle them, while teaching an anti-Israel curriculum in its school system.

UNRWA is the next congressional target for reform.

President Trump has threatened to decrease aid to UNRWA after the condemnation of the United States by the vast majority of UN General Assembly members in the aftermath of the US acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

UNRWA treats Palestinian refugees differently than any other refugees in the world.

For Syrian refugees living in Europe, their children born in Europe are not counted as refugees and are encouraged by the UN to resettle. But for a Palestinian who has lived in Europe for the past 70 years, their European- born children are considered stateless Palestinians in perpetuity, given the false hope of a “right of return,” a euphemism for the demographic destruction of Israel.

So, could a dramatic decrease in funding destabilize the PA, or is it time to stop the rationalizations and realpolitik and end funding of terrorists, and a system that has not only perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but has ossified any potential progress?

As for UNRWA, there would be humanitarian issues with a significant decrease in funding. According to The Times of Israel, UNRWA “educates half a million children… doctors see eleven million patients per year, and UNRWA conducts vocational training for 9000 young people” annually.

The best strategy for the time being is to continue UNRWA funding but only if Congress writes and the president signs legislation that changes UNRWA’s definition of “refugee” to that of the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees), with Palestinian refugees’ descendants being treated as every other descendant of a refugee in the world. This must also be accompanied by the demand that UNRWA end its incitement against Israel and Jews in UNRWA-run schools and related facilities.

As for the Taylor Force Act, it makes sense to stop literally paying for terrorism against civilians with American taxpayer money.

America should have learned that the PA believes that there are no consequences for its institutionalized corruption and its compensation system for terrorists and their families. Some potential terrorists arrested during the “knife intifada,” when asked why they were committing terrorism, admitted that they only needed a few more years in prison to financially set their families for life.

This may be a propitious point in time for action on these issues, as Sunni Arab nations are more interested in working with Israel and the US on their growing problems with Iran, and less concerned with their Palestinian cousins.

So will the PA collapse if the Taylor Force Act and UNRWA reform are instituted? It is all up to the Palestinians.

All they have to do to continue their aid is to stop paying terrorists, while preparing their people for the hard choices that need to be made if they truly believe in co-existing as two states for two peoples.

It is all up to them.

The writer is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network™. Dr. Mandel regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on the Middle East. He is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.




What Will the U.S. Do if Hamas Wins the Upcoming Palestinian Elections?

A Hamas victory could destabilize the entire region.

This October will mark the first Palestinian election in over a decade.

The previous election, 10 years ago, was a parliamentary election that brought Hamas into power, while this one is a municipal election. Knowing what happened in 2005, why would the corrupt, despised Palestinian Authority risk an election when Palestinians might choose Hamas’s Islamism over Fatah’s cronyism? The answer is that the PA was over-confident that Hamas would boycott this election, as it boycotted the municipal elections in 2012. Now, Hamas could win municipalities in Samaria, literally a stone’s throw from the Israeli center where 80 percent of the Jewish population resides. Hamas is looking now for a foothold in the West Bank, replicating its path to power in Gaza in 2005, and also diverting attention from its failure to provide essential services in Gaza.

Will an American administration and Congress allow American tax dollars to fund Hamas-controlled municipalities, if they win elections there? In 2006, Congress passed the “Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act,” prohibiting the executive branch from directly funding any Hamas-controlled Palestinian government. But when a unity Palestinian government was announced in 2014 that included Hamas, the Obama administration offered them money, with the excuse that the future Hamas-Fatah government was to be composed of only technocrats, not of the actual murderers of civilians one would label as terrorists.

But more troubling is that a Hamas victory would come at a very sensitive time.

According to Pinhas Inbari of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “The Palestinian Authority is getting dismantled… every province is going its own way, and Ramallah is losing its control over the entire West Bank.” In Hebron “we have the tribal system getting stronger” and in Nablus, “the refugee camps are taking over the city… spreading anarchy all around.”

Unless Fatah can get its act together at its upcoming Fatah General Congress to beat Hamas, its house is divided between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his rival Muhammad Dahlan.

Not only are Israel and the US Congress keenly interested in the outcome of this election, but so are Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. A Hamas victory would be a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the enemy of President Abdel Fattah Sisi in Egypt and also of the Saudi royal family. In Jordan the Brotherhood-associated “Islamic Action Front,” a rival of the government of Jordan, is having a rough enough time accommodating millions of Syrian refugees, and could be destabilized by a Hamas victory on its western bank.

Avi Issacharoff of The Times of Israel reported, “The threat to Fatah is real enough that COGAT commander Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai… and top Shin Bet [Israeli Security Agency] officials… [have] warned high-ranking PA officials that holding the elections could be a dangerous gamble.”

Some in Israel even favor foreign aid bolstering the PA or even Hamas to avoid having anarchy and civil war next door.

Unfortunately we already know which way Palestinians are leaning. At Palestinian universities, Hamas student leaders defeat Fatah-supported candidates regularly, while opinion polls in both the West Bank and Gaza reveal Palestinian Arabs wouldn’t mind seeing another war against Israel.

So what should Congress do? Some will rationalize that giving American taxpayer money to an organized terrorist entity is the lesser of two evils, avoiding the collapse of the PA, an American foreign policy interest.

But a strong case can be made to withhold aid from anything run by Hamas, which is uncontestably a terrorist organization. The congressional legislation of 2006 makes it clear that the president must certify that “no ministry, agency, or instrumentality of the Palestinian Authority is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization… [and] refrain from financially supporting the terrorist organization Hamas… until Hamas agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements… [and] eliminate anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement,” which even the PA has never done.

Congress needs to keep the US position clear: we don’t fund terrorist organizations, and Hamas is a terrorist organization.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™) and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.