Last week, our organization, The World Values Network, hosted President Donald Trump’s chief Middle East negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, in New York City for a small briefing.
Jason has just returned from meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and, as always, his insights were clear and direct. Most of all, Jason is uniquely humble, allowing him to be an excellent and disarming listener.
Media reports indicate that President Trump hopes that a two-state solution is possible, but has not made it an exclusive and unquestionable doctrine of American policy, as did the Obama administration before him. He is, as the reports indicate, open to other solutions as well.
The Trump administration’s hard line on Iran and holding Qatar accountable for their decades-long funding of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood sends a strong message that peace in the Middle East cannot be attained while terrorists earn big bucks.
And last week, the media reported that President Trump’s senior advisor (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner was himself finally turning up the heat on Abbas to cease all payments to terrorists.
Pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in accordance with Jewish values, which prize peace above all things. It was the book of Psalms that instructed man to “seek peace and pursue it,” and the Jewish sage Hillel who taught mankind to “love peace and pursue peace.”
So we should applaud the President and Jason’s dogged determination to bring peace. What is critical though, is that his efforts actually bring peace, and not more bloodshed. Because, sadly, almost every American peace effort in the past few decades has only led to an often drastic uptick in violence. And it is easy to understand why.
For peace to be achieved, it is an absolute requirement that both sides actually seek it. Israel has proven time and again its deep-seated will for peace. It was the Zionist leaders who sought to find peaceful support for the Jewish State through the United Nations. After conquering the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights in a defensive war of annihilation waged against them by five Arab states in 1967, Israel reached out to its allies in Washington to find a way to negotiate a lasting peace through the forfeiture of newly acquired territories.
And from there, Israel would commit to a self-defeating policy of relinquishing land in the hope of realizing the era of peace its prophets had proclaimed. In 1979, Israel actually did give Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace. In 2000, Israel retreated from its security zone in Southern Lebanon, thereby inviting further Hezbollah rocket attacks into its northern cities. In 1994, Israel gave the Palestinians control over all major Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria. In 1998, Israel gave away the most ancient Jewish city of Hebron, in the Wye River Accords. In 2005, Israel let go of Gaza.
Every single time Israel gave away more land, it did so in the name of peace. Sadly, though, Israel’s overtures of peace were answered consistently with yet more violence.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza led to a Hamas takeover of the strip and a staggering three wars in ten years, three additional Israeli operations in response to Gaza-based attacks, and tens of thousands of rockets being indiscriminately launched from Gaza toward Israeli civilian centers. Israel became, as a direct result, a state where almost every home is equipped with a bomb shelter.
The Oslo peace accords, too, were followed by a string of suicide bombings, beginning in 1995, that left more Israeli civilians dead in the five years following the agreement than in the fifteen years preceding it. Within two years of the Wye River Accords agreement, in September 2000, the second Intifada would explode, leaving nearly one thousand Israelis dead in its wake.
The withdrawal from Southern Lebanon led directly to Hezbollah’s mobilization of the abandoned territory — a military buildup that brought about Israel’s largest war in thirty years, the Second Lebanon war of 2006.
And with regard to Israel’s return of the Sinai: while Israel has not been at war with Egypt since, it is worth noting that the Sinai territory serves as the main supply line of weapons to the genocidal Hamas terrorists in Gaza — a line that was left wide open by the Hamas-supporting Egyptian government under Mohamed Morsi.
Today, the peninsula is teeming with bands of ISIS terrorists who pose a serious threat to Israel’s critical sea port and vacation destination of Eilat.
So if the past is any indicator, if you combine one side that wants peace with another that wants destruction, you will probably get more violence. That would unfortunately seem to be the case with Israel’s newest “partner in peace,” Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas celebrates terror and lionizes those who perpetrate it. There was no secret made of the heroic homecoming offered byAbbas to freed Palestinian terrorists in 2013, in which he triumphantly held up the hands of cold-blooded killers such as Abu-Musa Atia, who axed a sixty-seven year old survivor of the Sobibor Death Camp to death as he walked through a construction site.
As for those terrorists who never made it home, they have streets, schools, parks, and competitions endowed with their names.
Dalal Mughrabi (above) was just nineteen when she led the most barbaric and deadly terrorist attack in modern-Israeli history, known as the “Coastal Road massacre,” in 1978. She murdered thirty-eight Israelis, among them thirteen children – seven of whom were under the age of six. Her reception in Palestinian government and society for such gruesome acts was – purely – applause and veneration. Two girls’ high schools, a computer center, a soccer championship, two summer camps, and a public square have since been named after her. As it turned out, one of those schools – a girl’s school in Hebron – was being directly funded by USAID.
Even worse, Abbas does not only celebrate terror, but actually funds it, and with American taxpayer dollars.
Far from being hidden, PA stipends to convicted terrorists are paid as a part of Palestinian law. Just last year, Abbas re-signed this pay–for–slay policy into Palestinian law. The law, moreover, dictates that that the deadlier an attack, the richer the reward. The monthly income received by imprisoned terrorists and their families is directly-proportional to the length of the prison sentences that they receive in Israeli courts, or – in other words – the number of people they manage to maim and kill.
There are currently two Palestinian Government bodies, each with special office space and hundreds of civil servants, dedicated to dispersing funds to terrorists and their families. In the last year, these funds amounted to $315 million, or 8% of the Palestinian Authority’s total budget, to this twisted system of terrorist welfare.
To put it simply: If you blow up children, disembowel pregnant women, and stab Jews (or ) to death, you are legally entitled to an official Palestinian government stipend for the rest of your life. And even if you don’t survive your own attack, your family will thank you. They will receive the money in your stead.
That this terrorist-tenure is enshrined in Palestinian law would seem to argue against Abbas being a serious partner for peace. One simply cannot seek peace and reward the most cold-hearted perpetrators of the most savage violence.
So, while I stand firmly with Jason Greenblatt in his mission to bring about peace, I believe it begins with a firm insistence that any and all PA payments to terrorists cease forthwith.