It’s time for the Obama administration to cut to the chase and suspend its annual aid grant to the Palestinian Authority. To be sure, last week The New York Times reported that the administration “was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of their effort to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.” But we’ve seen this movie before. Enough with the reviews. It’s well past the time for action.
The Times reported that State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters “We’re deeply troubled by the Palestinian action,” which she said “is entirely counterproductive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for its sovereign independent state. It badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”
The Times went on to report that Ms. Psaki said there are a number of ways for the U.S. to respond to the PA move, but any response would not be immediate. She said the administration is seeking to clarify whether the assistance to the Palestinians complies with U.S. law.
But the issue is fundamentally political, not legal. It sounds as if the administration will only cut the aid if U.S. law compels it to. Yet the cutoff should be implemented because it suits American interests to do so. Even Ms. Psaki conceded the counterproductive nature of the Palestinians’ ICC maneuver.
Moreover, the Palestinian decision to seek to join the ICC followed almost immediately the UN Security Council’s rejection of a resolution that would have called for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem by 2017. One wonders what connection that rejection has with turning to the ICC, which would allow the Palestinians to bring war-crime charges against individual Israelis and is certainly one more step away from seeking a negotiated settlement. It is plainly just another cynical effort to apply pressure on Israel and to end-run negotiations where the Palestinians would have to make at least some concessions.
Significantly, the defeated resolution is a window on Palestinian thinking and demonstrates why the Palestinians need a reality check, which a cut-off of U.S. funds would provide.
Indeed, the terms of the resolution demonstrate why the Palestinians cannot reach an agreement with Israel. Under the resolution Israel would basically have to rely on the good offices of the UN for its security, with none of Israel’s security-based demands given any credence whatsoever. It would not be permitted to retain territory in order to maintain defensible borders. A future Palestinian state would not be demilitarized. There would be no IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. The borders of Israel and a Palestinian state would closely resemble the 1947 armistice lines with only the most minor land swaps.
With the implacable Hamas next door ready to mount terrorist attacks into Israel and pounce on the PA, with Hizbullah operating in the neighborhood, and with Iran moving toward a nuclear weapons capacity, this is nonsensical and runs against Israel’s security and defense needs.
Perhaps most revealing is that there would be an arbitrary deadline for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, something that would lead to a total refusal on the Palestinians’ part to negotiate. Why should they negotiate and have to make concessions?
In the wake of this latest development the U.S. must tell the Palestinians that it will not continue to support any effort to impose a solution on Israel.
Soon after PA President Mahmoud Abbas disclosed the effort to join the ICC, the headline of a Times editorial described it as “The Palestinians’ Desperation Move.” The editorial lamented that “At nearly 80 [Mr. Abbas] has to be tired and deeply frustrated with the failure of years of peace negotiations with Israel to achieve the Palestinian dream of an independent state….”
We reject the notion that there is some presumptive legitimacy to the Palestinians’ all or nothing demands. Mahmoud Abbas may think he can get his way by going to his friends at the UN. By words and by deeds the U.S. needs to persuade him that he is on the wrong track.