Op-Ed: The PA is Not the Answer
Prominent supporters of both Israel and the Palestinian cause are now saying that the solution to the current Gaza conflict is for the Palestinian Authority to be handed control there in place of Hamas.
Such thinking fails to account for the PA's long history of sheltering, assisting, and even collaborating with Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Writing on the op-ed page of the Washington Post on August 21, former national security advisers Samuel ("Sandy") Berger (who served under Bill Clinton) and Stephen Hadley (under George W. Bush) argue that the "only way" to achieve peace "is to let the Palestinian Authority and its security forces back into Gaza." They claim that "in the West Bank, the PA's security forces have proved relatively effective in maintaining security."
Similarly, Elliot Abrams, formerly Hadley's senior director for Near East affairs, asserted in the Weekly Standard on June 16 that U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority's security forces "should be continued, for [security cooperation between Israel and the PA] benefits Israelis as much as Palestinians."
Yes, such cooperation might benefit Israel--if it existed.
Instead, Israeli soldiers who went house-to-house in PA-controlled Hevron in June, during the search for the kidnapped teenagers, found stockpiles of weapons, laboratories for manufacturing bombs, and dozens of tunnels used by terrorists. All of these deadly preparations were being carried out right under the noses of the PA security forces.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported (March 23, 2014) that Israeli troops were forced to enter the Jenin refugee camp in pursuit of terrorists because --although Jenin is under the "full control" of the Palestinian Authority-- "the Palestinian [security forces] did not generally operate in refugee camps."
Other aspects of the PA's history of shielding and helping terrorists are well documented. The PA has never honored any of Israel's requests for the extradition of Palestinian terrorists. Numerous terrorists have been given jobs in the PA security forces. PA terrorists who are in Israeli prisons receive monthly salaries from the PA's Ministry of Prisoner Affairs (which itself is headed by convicted terrorist Ziyad Abu Eain). And prominent Palestinian terrorists are routinely celebrated and lionized by the Palestinian Authority and its lapdog media.
The PA was created in 1994 by the Palestine Liberation Organization. The dominant faction of the PLO is Fatah. In those days, Yasser Arafat was chairman of Fatah, the PLO, and the PA. His successor, Mahmoud Abbas, now chairs all three. How has Abbas's Fatah responded to the current Gaza conflict?
On the very first day of the war, Fatah's official Facebook page, called "Fatah - The Main Page" posted what it called "A message to the Israeli government and the Israeli people." Here's what Abbas's Fatah had to say to Israelis as hundreds of rockets were being fired at them from Gaza: "Death will reach you from the south to the north. Flee our country and you won't die. The KN-103 rocket is on its way toward you."
And that was just the beginning.
On July 9, a cartoon on the Fatah Facebook page, titled "Israel Fires Rockets at Gaza," showed an Israeli bomb, adorned with a huge swastika, about to strike a Palestinian child. (It's worth recalling that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, has said that comparing Israel to the Nazis is anti-Semitic.)
Perhaps the most telling item of all on Fatah's Facebook page is a dramatic full-color illustration of three heavily-armed Palestinians--one from Hamas, one from Islamic Jihad, and one from Fatah, standing together. The text reads: "Brothers in Arms: One God, one homeland, one enemy, one goal!" If anyone doubts whose side Fatah is on, this makes it crystal clear.
A video segment on Fatah's Facebook page shows a masked Fatah member standing amidst a huge arsenal of rockets, declaring: "Praise Allah, our jihad fighters have managed to develop these rockets so they will reach the Zionist depth, Allah willing, to a distance of 45 kilometers inside the occupied Palestinian territories…With these rocket we will liberate our Jerusalem. With these rockets we will crush the Zionist enemy…"
And Fatah’s assault has not been limited to words. On July 7, Fatah's Facebook page announced that Fatah's military unit, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, "targeted the enemy's bases and settlements with 35 rockets."
(Translations courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch.)
When the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians were signed in 1993, the State Department removed Fatah from its list of terrorist groups. Removing it was not just a statement of how the U.S. views Fatah; it also made it legally possible for the U.S. to start sending $500-million annually to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, of which Fatah is the largest faction. Now that Fatah has openly boasted that it is carrying out rocket terrorism against Israel, it's time to put Fatah back on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.
This week, a video posted on YouTube by Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, shows a Hamas-Fatah “joint operations room” in Gaza, where Fatah terrorists are shown displaying three-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank rocket launchers, and assault rifles. One of the Fatah members tells the cameraman that "the rifle" is the only way to "free the occupied lands." (Even though 98% of Palestinian Arabs in Judea-Samaria are "occupied" by the PA and 100% of Gaza residents are "occupied" by Hamas--not Israel.)
The fact that Sandy Berger, of all people, is advising Israel to hand Gaza to the PA should raise eyebrows. When Berger first joined the Clinton administration, as deputy national security adviser in 1993, friends of Israel were alarmed because he had been a financial supporter of Americans for Peace Now.
Those concerns about Berger were borne out when he publicly justified Palestinian violence, in a speech that he gave at Tel Aviv University on May 21, 2000. He said Palestinian violence against Israel was not just a curse, but also “a blessing,” because “the tragedy that awaits in the event of inaction also constitutes the greatest incentive for immediate action” in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Two months later, Berger reiterated his point in a July 31 conference call with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saying, “Either there will be an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, or there will be a conflict… If there is no agreement, we may be sadder and bloodier, but then maybe they’ll be prepared to make a deal.”
Berger and the others who put their trust in the PA have been proven wrong time and time again.
Fatah and Hamas are partners in terror. The moments of tension between the two movements reflected either internal disputes unrelated to Israel, or differences in tactics regarding Israel--not differences in their overall goals. The unity pact they signed earlier this year makes their true motives all to clear.
A lesson from the Gaza war: Giving control of Gaza to the PA is no solution.
[Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America. This article is part of a series. To view previous installments, please visit http://www.phillyreligiouszionists.org/lessons-from-the-gaza-war/.]