Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, RZAMr. Phillips is president of the Religious Zionists of America, Philadelphia Chapter; Mr. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, is chairman of the RZA-Philadelphia.
Mahmoud Abbas's choice of peace with Hamas over peace with Israel "surprised officials in Washington," the New York Times recently reported. According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration was "apparently taken unawares" by the PA's move.
It's not the first time that U.S. officials were caught napping.
In December 1988, the incoming George H.W. Bush administration announced that recent statements by Yasser Arafat were sufficiently "moderate" to warrant U.S. negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Eighteen months later, the Palestine Liberation Front, a PLO constituent group, launched a major terrorist attack against Israel and Arafat refused to condemn it. Surprise, surprise. The shocked Bush administration ended its dealings with the PLO.
In 2000-2001, the George W. Bush administration insisted that Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were peace-loving moderates and repeatedly pressured Israel to make more concessions to the PA. Israel warned that Arafat had never sincerely changed his terrorist ways, but nobody listened.
Until January 2002, that is, when Arafat was caught red-handed: Israel intercepted the Karine-A, a ship loaded with tons of rockets, mines, assault rifles, explosives and ammunitions that Arafat bought from Iran. Once again, the White House was shocked.
In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice thought that having elections in the Gaza Strip would be a great idea. It turned out that democratic elections do not always produce democratic leaders: Gazans voted to install a theocracy headed by the Hamas terrorists. The White House was surprised. Israel got stuck with the consequences, in the form of rockets fired daily at the kindergartens of Sderot.
Now here we go again. Israel’s “peace partners” sign a “surprise” unity deal with Islamist terrorist party Hamas. The question is: why? Why are U.S. officials always so surprised by Palestinian Arab actions?
The simple answer is: projection. Americans project the logical, rational ways of our world onto the Palestinian Arabs. Our leaders assume that since most Americans are reasonable, most Palestinians must be, too. Since most Americans want to live in peace with their neighbors and are open to compromise, the Palestinians must be, too.
No reasonable American leader would reject half a loaf and choose to wage endless war in order to get the whole loaf. White House and State Department policymakers can't imagine that Palestinian Arabs, deep down, are any different. After all, aren't we all human beings? Don't we all have the same basic human needs and desires? Aren't there common human values that we all share?
That's why we keep pouring U.S. taxpayers' money into the Palestinian Authority--at least $500-million annually (sometimes more) totaling over $10 billion – since 1994. Washington policy makers think that most Palestinian Arabs, like most Americans, care primarily about jobs, quality housing, and other material comforts. Give them enough prosperity, and they'll be happy.
It's inconceivable to the White House and the State Department that Palestinian Authority leaders would throw that all away, in the hopeless and never-ending pursuit of destroying Israel.
Thus, the constant stream of "surprises." The phony promises to recognize Israel. The treaties that are signed and never implemented. The negotiations that proceed in fits and starts, with nothing ever accomplished and the Palestinian Authority demanding endless concessions just to keep the talks going. The claims to oppose terrorism, and then the unity pact with the terrorists. It's one surprise after the next.
Arab regimes are headed by kings, Islamic fundamentalists, presidents-for-life, or... leaders who are still in office eight years after their term expires.
Here's the sad truth. The Palestinian Arab political culture is not just like ours. Their basic values and goals are not the same as those of Americans or Israelis.
Like the rest of the Arab world, they don't really aspire to democracy--which is why the Arab regimes are headed by kings, Islamic fundamentalists, presidents-for-life, or, in the case of the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas, leaders who are still in office eight years after their term expires.
Like the rest of the Arab world, they don't embrace the values of tolerance and pluralism. That's why in the Palestinian Authority and its Arab neighbors, women are murdered for the sake of their families' "honor," political dissidents are tortured, and religious minorities are persecuted.
Like the rest of the Arab world, the Palestinian Authority believes that terrorism against Israeli Jews is justified. That's why the PA has not stamped out the terrorists in its midst, extradited terrorists to Israel (as required by the Oslo accords) or even outlawed terrorist groups. It can't even bring itself to unequivocally condemn terrorist attacks.
And like the rest of the Arab world, the Palestinian Authority leadership's long-range concept of "peace" is one in which Israel does not exist.
Until Washington recognizes this sad reality, it will find itself "surprised" again and again by the very unsurprising behavior of the Palestinian Arabs and their leaders.
The authors are Members of the Board of the Religious Zionists of America / RZA; an earlier version of this essay appeared in the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia