Many Western observers were surprised by the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to participate in the U.S.-sponsored economic conference in Bahrain last month, as well as the subsequent arrests of those who participated. However, their response should come as no surprise.
Bahrain was merely the latest manifestation of the ongoing theme of Arab rejectionism. This rejectionism, together with the financial gain of those profiting from it, represent the two fundamental sources of the Middle East conflict.
Only by understanding these two underlying sources of the conflict can one fully understand the P.A.’s modus operandi.
Mukawama is the Arabic word for “resistance,” but it’s also used to describe opposition or rejection. A stubborn refusal. In other words, an attitude and posture of “just say no.” Mukawama underlies and defines the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and continues to shape it to this very day.
While this resistance started long ago, in fact from the earliest days of the Zionist movement, it was first formally manifested in 1937 when the Arab High Committee unanimously rejected the Peel Commission, which had recommended partitioning the Land of Israel between Jews and Arabs. Ten years later, Arabs maintained the same approach and rejected the U.N. Partition Plan, which subsequently led to Israel’s War of Independence.
In 1967, after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, the Arabs responded to Israel’s overture of peace by issuing the “three no’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.
The Oslo Accords in the 1990s might have been a “yes” on paper, but in reality were a big “no” that resulted in dozens of terrorist attacks killing more than a thousand Israelis.
Again in 2000, the Palestinian Arabs led by Yasser Arafat said “no” at the Camp David Summit. Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton even blamed Arafat for the summit’s failure. At the Annapolis Conference in 2007, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas once again rejected an offer for peace.
Most recently, it is mukawama that caused the P.A. to reject the Bahrain conference in advance.
For the Palestinian Arab leaders, mukawama is not merely a political philosophy, it is a way of life. It is a tradition. So strong in fact is this mindset, this prevailing reality, it is almost inconceivable for any Palestinian leader to oppose it. They would be betraying a posture that has become grounded in religion and national honor.
The problem does not lie solely with mukawama, however, but also with those who benefit from it. The economic benefits of mukawama are the second underlying cause of the conflict.
The anti-Israel industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and as long as people can continue to profit handsomely from the conflict, they have no motivation to end it.
The anti-Israel economic boondoggle takes several forms:
UNRWA: The $1 billion annual budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
UNRWA focuses solely on the issue of Palestinian refugees, to which its massive budget is exclusively dedicated. It employs more than 30,000 people and operates more than 700 schools. How likely is it that UNRWA’s employees want the conflict to end?
“Pay for slay”: Another big-money business is the P.A.’s rewards to terrorists serving time in Israeli jails, for which the P.A. leadership pays some $345 million annually.
The amount of money paid to the terrorists is set according to the carnage. The more Israelis you kill, the more you (or your family, if you don’t survive) get paid.
If you kill enough Israelis to be sentenced to 25 years in jail, you get about $950 per month. But if your sentence is, say, 30 years, you get more than $1,000 per month. Considering the average salary in the P.A. is only some $500, these are significant sums indeed.
Again, where is the incentive to solving the conflict?
Terror tunnels: Since 2012, Hamas has received more than a billion dollars from Qatar alone, which, among other things, is used to pay the salaries of their members and to build infiltration tunnels.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas had spent some $90 million building tunnels into Israel, at an average cost of nearly $3 million a tunnel.
An operation of this magnitude needs hundreds or even thousands of workers who want to continue to make a living. Neither they nor their terrorist contractors want to see the end of the conflict.
Palestinian Arab leadership: Not surprisingly, the senior political leaders of the Palestinian Arabs are the ones who benefit most from the conflict.
For example, senior Hamas leaders Musa Abu Marzook and Khaled Mashal are billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion to $3 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively.
P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas is “only” worth $100 million, but his two sons are worth $300 million, while senior Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan is worth $120 million.
Given the vast wealth accrued by the Palestinian Arab leadership from the conflict, it is obviously difficult to encourage them to turn off the tap.
Of course, the big loser in this world of mukawama and money has been the Palestinian Arab people, who have been betrayed by their leadership. My sense is that most Palestinian Arabs would like to have a better life for themselves and their families. Mukawama is not putting bread on their tables, though it certainly is enriching the leadership.
For there to be any semblance of a chance for peace in the region, all the existing financial incentives for the Palestinian Arab leadership must be removed, and there needs to be a demand to end the dead end of mukawama.
Those who truly care about the well-being of the Palestinian Arabs will demand nothing less.