The Israeli government has repeatedly raised the issue of Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The Palestinian Authority not only tolerates private, unofficial expressions of hatred, but actively endorses the same sentiments through its official media and its textbooks. The issue threatens to derail ongoing peace negotiations–if, indeed, the Palestinians ever intended for them to succeed.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the incitement problem in a joint press conference with Kerry:
In the six months since the start of peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority continues its unabated incitement against the state of Israel. This Palestinian Government incitement is rampant. You see it in the state-controlled media – the government-controlled media – in the schools, in textbooks, in kindergartens. You see it at every part of Palestinian society. So instead of preparing Palestinians for peace, Palestinian leaders are teaching them to hate Israel. This is not the way to achieve peace. President Abbas must lead his people away from terror and incitement, towards reconciliation and peace.
The State Department has since ducked questions about why the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has blamed Israel for killing Yasser Arafat–a conspiracy theory that Israel has denied and that recent Russian investigatoss concluded was false, saying that Arafat died of “natural” causes and not poisoning. Erekat was also responsible for false reports about an Israeli “massacre” in Jenin in counter-terror operations in 2002.
The New York Times‘ correspondent in the region, Jodi Rudoren, does a reasonably good job of covering the issue of incitement from both sides. She notes that while there are some Israeli extremists who express hatred towards Palestinians, hatred of Israel and Jews is mainstream in the Palestinian Authority. Rudoren omits, however, the fact that Palestinians are required to end incitement as a condition of the Oslo accords of 1993.
The fact that Palestinians do not honor that agreement–and that the U.S. is often seen to be covering for their violations–makes Israelis more nervous about signing anything that Kerry puts in front of them. The incitement issue suggests that the main obstacle to peace is not settlements, Jerusalem or even refugees: it is the ongoing refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept the state of Israel or even the presence of Jews in the region.