Over a period of two weeks, since the Democratic victory in the US presidential election, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has grown and matured, dropped his permanent sourpuss attitude about normalization, annexation, and cooperation, and started raising the corners of his mouth in a passable simulation of a smile. Suddenly, Abbas is prepared to offer the kinds of concessions that, had he presented them to President Trump’s advisor Jared Kushner, he could have had a Palestinian state by now. Such an intriguing man.
The chairman will spend his days until January 20, 2021, in anticipation of a phone call from Joe Biden to restore ties with the United States. Should he receive an invitation, Abbas would catch the first plane available to Washington (probably from Amman airport).
From a sour and sullen leader in the days of Trump, Abbas has almost instantly become a clown made of candy, to quote BBT’s Sheldon Cooper. Ramallah is already sending all the right signals to the White House to pave its way into Biden’s heart: for the first time, the PA is prepared to reform the payment mechanism for the families of terrorists. Instead of basing the monthly salary on the length of a security prisoner’s prison term, which reflects the number of Jews he killed – more dead Jews, bigger check – the PA is proposing a new formula, based on the number of family members and its socio-economic condition.
According to Kan 11, this proposal has been passed to President-elect Biden from the PA through Western diplomats.
Ramallah is reportedly already working on drafting an amendment to the PA’s Prisoners and Released Prisoners Act of 2004. This PA law mandated a monthly salary of $250 to Palestinian security detainees imprisoned in Israel for up to five years, with a higher payment to those serving a longer term. Those who served a life sentence were paid $1,000 per month. In January 2011, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad enacted an amendment to increase these payments by 300%.
As of May 2011, the Palestinian Authority has spent $4.5 million per month on payments to prisoners in Israeli jails, including prisoners convicted of murdering civilians, and $6.5 million to the families of suicide bombers. The salaries, funded by the PA, are given to Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad prisoners. These payments comprise 6% of the PA’s budget. Hamas member Abdullah Barghouti, who was sentenced to 67 life terms for perpetrating the killings of 67 Israelis, receives about $2,000. Prisoners who are behind bars for over 30 years receive $3,000 per month.
The EU has been repeatedly demanding that the PA change this policy for years, to no avail. But now, with the Biden administration entering the White House, Abbas and the gang are ready to make those alterations. Naturally, Ramallah, it is hoping that this will pave the way for the renewal of US financial aid, without exposing the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to lawsuits on US soil by victims of Palestinian terrorism.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced in early November that the Biden administration would restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the PA, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and reopen the PLO mission in Washington DC. This would reverse the Trump administration’s cutting of more than $225 million in aid to the PA, Gaza, and to eastern Jerusalem Arabs in 2018. The Biden administration, according to Harris, is also planning to restore the estimated $360 million per year in US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRRA), which Trump’s people said was “irredeemably flawed.”
Harris also said the Biden administration would reopen the US consulate in eastern Jerusalem which the Trump administration closed last year.
On Wednesday, Abbas also announced the return of his ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the two countries that have normalized relations with Israel in the past two months. Back then, in protest, the Palestinian Authority ordered its ambassadors to return home, accusing the two Gulf states of sticking the knife deep in the back of the PA Arabs and twisting it tightly – as a few senior Ramallah officials put it.
Turns out the stick and carrot approach does work, even for the noble Arabs of Eretz Israel. The problem is, as usual, that we’ll end up with too little stick and way too many carrots.