President Obama will be arriving in Israel on Wednesday, and on Thursday he’ll be taking a break from meeting Israeli leaders and visiting Israeli sites to go to Ramallah and meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
In this rundown of the president’s itinerary, U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says that in that parley, Obama will
reaffirm our support for both Palestinian aspirations for a two-state solution but also the important institution-building that the Palestinian Authority is doing on the West Bank. He’ll visit a cultural center, funded by USAID, where he’ll have a chance to meet with young Palestinians and discuss the future that they face as they seek to build their institutions and achieve a state, again in the West Bank and Gaza.
It’s to be hoped that meanwhile the president is getting briefed on some of the latest developments in the Palestinian Authority. Last Thursday night—about a week before his visit to Ramallah—there was this one:
Six people were injured, one critically, after stones thrown by Palestinians caused a car to collide with a truck near the West Bank settlement of Ariel….
Adva Bitton and her 3 daughters, aged 3, 4 and 6 were injured in the crash. The 3-year-old’s condition was described as critical….
By Sunday, Adva Bitton was describing her own and her older two daughters’ survival as a miracle, while doctors were still fighting to save the life of three-year-old Adelle, who had undergone a second head operation. On Friday morning the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had arrested ten Palestinian Authority men suspected of involvement in the stoning attack.
It was not just some random criminal activity but part of a profusion of such incidents, with Israel’s Shin Bet (domestic security agency) reporting 578 rock-throwing, Molotov cocktail-throwing, and other attempted terror attacks in the West Bank in 2012—including the thwarting of 100 “serious” attacks including attempted suicide bombings and kidnappings.
While none of last year’s rock- and firebomb-throwing attacks were lethal, in September 2011 25-year-old Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan were killed when rocks were hurled at their car near Hebron in the West Bank.
Hopefully, then, amid the talk of statehood, culture, and institution-building, President Obama will get around to mentioning to Abbas that he is personally responsible for the fact that his PA is a terror entity, with its already-existing institutions—schools and camps, mosques, state media, state ceremonies—systematically inculcating the delegitimizaton of Israel, anti-Semitism, and glorification of terrorists (extensively documented here and here). Recently the Norwegian and British parliaments have debated whether, under such circumstances, to cease financially aiding this entity.
Also on Friday Israeli journalist and author Nadav Shragai published an eye-opening exposé on constant, rampant attempts by Palestinian Authority terrorists to kidnap both Israeli soldiers and civilians. The terrorists’ aim—encouraged by Israel’s prisoner deals, the most recent being the Gilad Shilat deal—is to win the release of as many Palestinian security prisoners as possible, themselves convicted of terror offenses.
As in this case:
It happened exactly a year ago. Shortly after midnight, Yael Shahak and her 8-year-old daughter Chen were returning from a family gathering to their home in Beit El [in the West Bank]. Suddenly, the car in front of them slowed down…blocking [their] way.… Four young men, their heads covered with hats and scarves, got out of the car and signaled to Yael to open her car door. When she refused, they began smashing the car windows with metal rods. Shards of broken glass fell on Chen, who had been sleeping.
Luckily for the mother and daughter, another car arrived….
It was an Israeli car, and the would-be kidnappers fled. The terrorist cell was eventually apprehended by the Shin Bet; they had
planned to hide the kidnap victims in a cave or an apartment in Ramallah, and also planned on filming the kidnapping and uploading the video to the Internet to start the negotiations for their release as soon as possible.
There were, Shragai notes, 11 reported attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers in 2011, 26 in 2012, and already several this year. The Shin Bet and the IDF are, however, worried about a growing trend of trying to kidnap civilians—and not only in the West Bank. Shragai describes another cell—also apprehended—that tried
for several days…to kidnap soldiers or civilians from bus and train stations throughout the Sharon region [in pre-1967 Israel] and the center of the country. But they did not succeed because the soldiers and civilians refused the ride they offered.
If Obama were to raise with Abbas the issue of Palestinian security prisoners, he would have a lot to talk with him about. As on many other occasions, just last month Abbas said freeing thousands of these prisoners, including convicted terrorists serving multiple life terms, was a main condition for “peace” with Israel. The PA uses 6% of its budget—largely foreign-donated—to pay salaries to these prisoners and support families of suicide bombers. Under such circumstances, it is no surprise that many Palestinians are motivated to try kidnapping as a way to win the prisoners’ release.
But if—as can be safely predicted—Obama fails to confront Abbas forcefully with these matters on Thursday, Obama alone cannot be blamed. Since the Palestinian Authority was created by an Israeli Labor government in the early 1990s, U.S. administrations have been coddling it, aiding it, and making excuses for it, while claiming that achieving statehood for it is a supreme goal. Nor is Israel’s attitude simple, with its political and security establishments still tending to regard the PA as a lesser evil that, if it falls, will be replaced by Hamas.
Congress and the American people, however, have every prerogative to ask how American values or interests are promoted by continuing to whitewash this entity and seek its political empowerment.
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