Thursday, December 30, 2021

Weekly column by Vic Rosenthal

How Not to Treat an Enemy

News item:

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Wednesday that Israel would implement a series of measures intended to prop up the indebted Palestinian Authority and ease Palestinians’ daily life. …

Israel will provide the PA with a NIS 100 million loan ($32.2 million) on tax revenues Israel collects on Ramallah’s behalf, in an attempt to reduce the PA’s spiraling deficit. Ramallah, the PA’s seat of government, has seen dwindling foreign aid for years, and almost none from its biggest backers in 2021. …

According to another Israel official, Gantz told Abbas that a series of economic measures are being weighed, including lowering fees for purchasing fuel and a pilot program to allow shipping containers to enter the West Bank from Jordan via Allenby Bridge.

Such steps “would likely add hundreds of millions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority on an annual basis,” said Gantz, according to the official. …

Gantz and Abbas, in their Tuesday meeting, also discussed legalizing more Palestinian construction in the West Bank.

As you probably know, the Knesset passed a law in 2018 that requires Israel to deduct a sum equivalent to the amount that the PA pays to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons and to the families of “martyrs” from tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA. This loan and an even larger one (500 million NIS) given to the PA in August partially neutralizes the law. It’s hard to see how Israel can complain about the Biden Administration circumventing its own law against the PA’s “pay to slay” program, when her government does the same thing.

The article I’ve quoted from above does not mention anything that the PA will do for Israel in return. Will they end “pay for slay?” If they had wanted to, they could have done so long ago and would not need to accept “loans” (which I am prepared to eat my hat if they repay). But the leaders of the PA, from Mahmoud Abbas on down, have consistently said that if there is only one penny left in their treasury, it will go to the prisoners.

What about incitement of terrorism? The PA actually committed to end incitement, back in the days of Yasser Arafat. Of course, as you probably know, they never did this, continuing to honor terrorists in their schools and media, and to name sporting events after them. PA officials claim regularly that Israel is planning to destroy or defile the al-Aqsa mosque, creating riots and inspiring terrorism. Incitement continued after the 500 million shekel “loan” in August, and there is no indication that it will stop now.

Improving the daily life of the Palestinians by fattening the PA is a joke, as any resident of the PA will tell you. The last thing they do with their resources is to help their citizens (except for a few “connected” ones).

So why is Israel giving cash and other concessions to the PA? The stated reason is that it is necessary to strengthen the PA; if it collapses, the territories are expected to fall into the hands of Hamas, which would turn it into a launching platform for rockets next door to Tel Aviv.

One might think that the best solution to that problem would be to weaken Hamas, rather than strengthening the PA. But our government is also concerned about protecting Hamas, which, if it collapsed, might be replaced by worse organizations, like Palestinian Islamic Jihad or even ISIS. So Israel permits the introduction of millions of dollars from Qatar in order to prop up Hamas.

There is something very wrong here. The PA and Hamas tell us in no uncertain terms that they want us to disappear. They do so in language as bad or worse than that of the Nazis. And they try to kill our citizens, with rockets and knives and bullets. Our response is to try to restrain them from killing us (doing the least collateral damage possible), and pay them. Has this ever been the way a nation successfully defended itself against its enemies?

This is also the way we deal with Hezbollah. Yes, we attack shipments of advanced weapons from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria; but some get through on the ground, by air, and by sea. Little by little Hezbollah builds up its deterrent against us.

I am naïve, I am told. I don’t understand the realities of the complex situation. We need to gain time so that we can deal with Iran. The US and Europe will punish us if we act aggressively. The status quo, in which we buy a small, manageable amount of terrorism, is actually the best situation we can hope for. And so on.

We are giving in to extortion: from the PA and Hamas, but also from the anti-Israel regimes in the US and Europe. We are taking the easy course, which results in a slow degredation of our strategic position, against Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran. Our defensive, protective, strategy, which includes antimissile systems, physical barriers, interdiction of weapons shipments, as well as payments to our local enemies, is a strategy for buying time and avoiding confrontation. But it does not permanently weaken our enemies; indeed, it preserves them.

Are we waiting for some external event to come along and reverse the decline of our strategic position? Maybe a revolution in Iran? I wouldn’t hold my breath. A miracle is always welcome, but counting on one is a poor strategy. If things continue as they are now, a point will be reached when our enemies feel that they are in a position to prevail, and at that point will trigger open conflict. This was the essence of the plan described by Yasser Arafat in 1974, and it has only changed in detail since then.

There is also the psychological damage from this policy. For example, what is the message sent to the PA, when we pay them for quiet and they return antisemitic incitement against us? Does it not justify their behavior, in their minds and in the minds of their supporters around the world? The propaganda campaigns paint us as oppressors, land thieves, people who don’t belong here. Payments are construed as compensation, reparations to our victims.

A better strategy is an aggressive policy to weaken and destroy our enemies, one at a time if possible. It would be much more convenient to deal with Hezbollah if we didn’t have to worry about Hamas opening a second front; and similarly with the PA. And it goes without saying that Iran depends on Hezbollah to deter us from striking their nuclear project.

So why are we trying to avoid conflict with all of them? And why are we strengthening them?

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