When the Palestinian Authority (PA) was pushing last month to receive $50 million in direct funding to help alleviate its dire fiscal situation, it received critical support from a seemingly unlikely source: the right-wing government of Israel.
Israel quietly supported the Obama administration’s plan to deliver $50 million in direct assistance to cover the PA’s general budget shortfalls just three weeks before the Palestinians are planning to short-circuit the peace process by forcing a vote for statehood at the United Nations.
Though the timing certainly is curious, such a move actually fits recent a recent pattern. Since the death of Yasser Arafat, one of the staunchest defenders of continued U.S. support for the PA has been the Jewish state. While the logic is clear that the PA is a lesser evil than its rival Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, Israel’s steadfast backing has enabled the PA to receive billions of dollars in recent years without addressing rampant corruption or ending its widespread incitement against Israel.
With the Palestinians reportedly poised to force a vote for statehood at the U.N. Security Council next week that would embarrass the United States and be seen as a direct assault on Israel, the PA’s smooth sailing in Washington could soon end abruptly. Its standing in Washington already has been tenuous because Congress this year finally has made the ongoing Palestinian incitement against Israel a priority.
Several delegations comprising roughly one-fifth of Congress visited the Middle East during the August recess, and each group delivered a unified message to Palestinian leaders that pursuing the U.N. statehood vote, the first round of which is now scheduled for Sept. 23, would seriously damage relations and could result in a cutoff of aid. Obama administration officials have delivered similar messages in recent weeks.
Yet even with the PA’s unyielding position that it will force a vote at the U.N., President Obama on Aug. 30 quietly signed the presidential waiver required to release money directly to the PA. Though signing the waiver has been routine going back to the George W. Bush administration, the lack of public congressional outrage has not been routine.
This year, top House members on the foreign-aid spending panel, Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, and Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, did not even issue a press release. Even with the United States mired in record deficits and politicians scouring for spending cuts, the U.S. giving $50 million to cover the PA’s general budget shortfalls attracted barely any media attention.
What should have garnered media scrutiny is not just the expenditure of the $50 million, but how the Palestinians will spend it. Although U.S. taxpayer funds do not officially cover Palestinian broadcasting – and officially cannot – the fungible nature of money means that U.S. taxpayers indirectly make possible rabid and unrelenting Palestinian incitement against Israel.
Mr. Obama moved to deliver $50 million directly to the PA on the heels of a month in which the Palestinians have not only advanced their push for a U.N. vote but have continued their ugly history of incitement against the Jewish state.
Consider that PA TV, the PA’s official television station, last month broadcast from the home of the planner of the infamous 2001 Sbarro Pizza suicide bombing, expressing a desire for freedom for the terrorist, who is serving a life sentence. During the show, according to a translation provided by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), “best wishes of loyalty” and “freedom” also were sent to the woman who drove the suicide bomber to the location.
PA TV, according to PMW, also has repeatedly broadcast a program glorifying the Palestinian terrorists behind the deadliest terror attack in Israeli history, a 1978 bus hijacking that resulted in the murder of 37 Israeli citizens.
A little more than a week before Mr. Obama signed the waiver to fund the PA, the official PA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida ran a cartoon suggesting that “Palestine” should replace all of Israel, according to a PMW report.
No wonder many observers are concerned that the U.N. vote next week could help usher in a new wave of violence, perhaps even a third intifada. Two recent, successful terrorist attacks only add to those fears.
Mass protests scheduled for next week, on the eve of the U.N. vote, could be transformed easily into violent clashes, perhaps even directed against the PA. Palestinian officials are worried privately, for example, about unrest already building on the streets of Jenin, and they are not confident that they can maintain control of the situation.
In other words, the U.N. vote next week could have two major ramifications at once: (1) destabilizing the political situation in the Palestinian territories with a new round of violence and (2) eviscerating the support the PA would need from Israel and the United States to maintain its tenuous hold on power.
So, should the PA persist in forcing the U.N. vote next week, which seems almost certain now that the Arab nations have come out publicly in favor, it could mark a Pyrrhic Palestinian victory, undermining not just Israel and the United States, but the PA itself.
By Joel Mowbray, an adjunct fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.